Sabah quake: Malaysia to relook safety protocols for climbers, which may include age limit

Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (second from left) and his wife Nori (second from right), with Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah (right) at Tanjong Katong Primary School on June 9, 2015. --
Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (second from left) and his wife Nori (second from right), with Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah (right) at Tanjong Katong Primary School on June 9, 2015. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (second from left) and his wife Nori (third from left), with Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah (fourth from left) at Tanjong Katong Primary School on June 9,
Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (second from left) and his wife Nori (third from left), with Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah (fourth from left) at Tanjong Katong Primary School on June 9, 2015. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (second from right) and his wife Nori (right), with Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah (third from right) at Tanjong Katong Primary School on June 9, 2015.&nb
Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (second from right) and his wife Nori (right), with Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah (third from right) at Tanjong Katong Primary School on June 9, 2015. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (third from right) and his wife Nori (second from right), with Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah (left) at Tanjong Katong Primary School on June 9, 2015.&nbs
Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (third from right) and his wife Nori (second from right), with Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah (left) at Tanjong Katong Primary School on June 9, 2015. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
An ornament stand displaying the photographs of the victims of the June 6 Mount Kinabalu earthquake. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
An ornament stand displaying the photographs of the victims of the June 6 Mount Kinabalu earthquake. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Malaysia will review the safety protocols for climbers in Kinabalu, which may include an age limit, after last Friday's (June 5) 6.0-magnitude quake, said Malaysian Minister of Youth and Sports Khairy Jamaluddin.

But the authorities will study the seismic threat before deciding on the measures, Mr Khairy said during a visit to Tanjong Katong Primary School on Tuesday (June 9) to pay his respects to those who died in the quake that struck Mount Kinabalu.

"Obviously it's a big shock for us. This will require us to look at the safety protocols for climbers in Kinabalu," he told reporters at a condolence site set up in the school canteen. "This changes everything. We've never had an earthquake with the epicentre so close to the mountain."

According to Malaysian media, Sabah is considering the possibility of allowing only those aged above 15 to climb the mountain. The official Mount Kinabalu website states that climbers should be at least 10 years old.

The victims from Singapore were mostly 12-year-olds.

Mr Khairy said that the Malaysian authorities have stepped up search and rescue efforts for the missing climbers over the past two days, and hope to conclude them by Tuesday.

Six pupils and one teacher from the school died while on an annual expedition to the Sabah mountain. An adventure guide accompanying the group was also killed. A pupil and teacher are still unaccounted for.

At the school, Mr Khairy penned a condolence note that read: "On behalf of the Malaysian government and people, I extend our deepest condolences to the family of the victims from Tg. Katong School. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. May they rest in peace." 

His wife Nori also wrote: "With deepest sympathy for this great loss. May you all find comfort in one another at this time."

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"This is an extremely trying time for both our countries," added Mr Khairy.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is in Sabah on Tuesday to oversee the remaining efforts, he said.

Mr Khairy also defended Malaysia's emergency services, which an Australian trekker had criticised as being disorganised.

He said: "We have done our best from the start. The helicopters were unable to land on the first day because of weather conditions. Of course, the mountain guides played a leading role on the front lines because they were up there and their familiarity with the terrain.

"They are certainly the heroes of the day. But I think the emergency services responded well under the circumstances and I think that's been seen from the recovery efforts."

The condolence site at the school will be open until 7pm on Tuesday.

mellinjm@sph.com.sg