Sabah quake: Singaporean girl among those killed at Mount Kinabalu, say Malaysian officials

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean girl was killed at Mount Kinabalu when a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck Sabah on Friday (June 5), according to the Malaysian authorities.

She is believed to be a 12-year-old pupil from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) who was there on an overseas learning journey organised by the school. A group of 29 pupils and eight teachers went on the trip. Eight pupils and two teachers are still unaccounted for.

Mr Sadri Farick, the father of another TKPS pupil who joined the trip, told The Straits Times that he heard from the Malaysian authorities that "one of the TKPS pupils is not with us anymore".

Reports quoting the Malaysian police and Dr Jamili Nais, director of Sabah Parks, also said a Singaporean was among those killed during the quake. The body of the Singaporean was brought down Mount Kinabalu on Friday evening, together with another deceased, identified as mountain guide Robbi Sappinggi, 30, said media reports.

The Singapore authorities have yet to confirm the death.

The Straits Times understands that the two missing TKPS teachers are Mr Mohammad Ghazi and Mr Terrence Sebastian Loo. Past and present students of the primary school took to social media to pray for their teachers.

Twitter user DavidErwan11 said: "Mr Ghazi is the best PE teacher ever. Hopefully he is alright".

On Instagram, user _tan.cxz said: "Prayers are with the juniors and teachers who are still stranded at site. Mr Ghazi (ex-form teacher), may you be able to come back peacefully with the kids. #prayfortkpsclimbers".

The Ministry of Education said it has made arrangements for the families of the missing pupils and teachers to fly to Kota Kinabalu on Saturday morning (June 6).

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Mr Sadri, 37, who will be travelling to Sabah with his wife, said he managed to speak to his son on the phone. "He said to me, 'Papa, landslide, stones'. And then he couldn't talk anymore. He's going for an operation later."

A doctor in Sabah had spoken to Mr Sadri and updated him on his son's condition. His son has a fractured skull and back injuries, Mr Sadri said. "Of course I felt very relieved when I heard his voice. But I don't know the extent of his injuries, and he also sounds quite weak now."

He added that he understands his son was carried down to safety by the more experienced trekkers.

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The pupils joined a learning trip called "Omega Challenge".

The last entry on a blog for the learning journey was dated June 4 titled "Reached! Pendant Hut".

"What a day! Though it was an exhausting hike to Pendant Hut, Step by step, inch by inch, we All made it up!" said the blog post.

"It wasn't easy but they all succeeded getting up there. How did they make it up? How did they endure the cold wind and rain? How did they overcome the steepness of the mountain?

"The answer? Each other. They encouraged each other. They helped their friends by retrieving water bottles from their bags when it was hard to reach. They checked in with their friends by asking 'How are you?', 'Are you okay?'. They were effective. They pressed on. They utilised each other to give them strength. Eventually, they reached Pendant Hut. Together."

It ended with: "Tomorrow, we will take on the next challenge. VIA FERRATA! Bring it on, I say!"

Parents of the missing pupils told media that they were stranded at the Via Ferrata route. Many climbers are attracted to the challenging route where cables, metal rungs and bridges are set into the rocks on the steep terrain to help people ascend.

There were also reports of other climbers stranded there because of the quake.

It is not the first time the primary school has organised learning journeys to Mount Kinabalu. According to a magazine published by the school last year, the Omega Challenge, where pupils and teachers trek up Mount Kinabalu, is part of a special programme designed for the school's student leaders and sports leaders.

Students and staff Fuchun Secondary and Greenridge Secondary schools were also at Mount Kinabalu. All the student and teachers have returned safely to Singapore at 12.20am on Saturday. These include 32 students and four teachers from Greenridge, and 26 students and four teachers from Fuchun.