Sabah quake: Search teams in full swing, hoping to find all victims by Sunday evening

Malaysian rescue officials mark their current locations on the information board located on the way to Mount Kinabalu during a rescue mission for more than 130 climbers who were stranded on one of Southeast Asia's highest mountains after an earthquak
Malaysian rescue officials mark their current locations on the information board located on the way to Mount Kinabalu during a rescue mission for more than 130 climbers who were stranded on one of Southeast Asia's highest mountains after an earthquake rocked parts of Sabah, in Kundasang, Malaysia, on June 6, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA

KUNDASANG (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Earthquake search-and-rescue (SAR) teams are hoping to find and recover all victims by Sunday evening.

Sabah Fire and Rescue Department director Nordin Pauzi said the SAR team have made four helicopter trips to Mount Kinabalu as of 8am on Sunday.

"Today, our focus is on 100 per cent mobilisation of manpower and logistics using helicopters. Hopefully we are able to complete the SAR mission in seven trips," he said.

According to Mr Nordin, about 55 officers from various government agencies including the Fire and Rescue department, armed forces, Civil Defence department (JPAM), the police Generation Operations Force (PGA) and mountain guides have been deployed for the mission.

"Our operation today is focused on finding the victims. Since we have mobilised full force to recover the victims, we hope to find by them by noon and we will transport them to the airport terminal by evening," said Mr Nordin.

He added that the helicopters will land at kilometre 7.5 of Paka, and that four bodies had been picked up at kilometre 4 of Paka on Sunday.

"We will ascend to Laban Rata to continue the search at a higher spot. We will gather the victims at Laban Rata. With the help of the mountain guides, we have identified the spots where they (the remaining two victims) might be," he explained.

Mr Nordin said the number of helicopter flights that could be carried out are limited due to weight restrictions.

"When travelling at a high altitude, we can only transport a minimal number of officers to the spots.

He added that some of the victims might be in hard-to-reach places, saying that this was one of the challenges faced by SAR teams.

"We have sent fully equipped experts to carry out the task," he added.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister said all efforts were being taken to rescue victims of the earthquake, reported Bernama.

He also said the tragedy was surprising and saddening, according to Bernama.

“All efforts are being made to rescue the victims of the tragedy,” he was quoted as saying by Bernama during a congratulatory speech to the King in conjunction with his official birthday celebration at the Istana Negara on Saturday.