Singaporean hiker drowns in Malaysia

A Singaporean hiker drowned while crossing a river in Malaysia's Taman Negara National Park on Sunday after being swept away by a 10m-high rain surge.

Former journalist Nawaz Marican, 43, had sat in shallow water to take a break when a phenomenon known locally as "kepala air" - which occurs after rainfall - caused a wave which washed him away.

His body was found 5km away and identified by his family at Kuala Lumpur General Hospital on Monday. The Straits Times understands that his body has been repatriated.

The guide, Mr Husnan Husin, 33, who has worked at the park since 2003, had been leading a group of 25 on a five-day trip to scale Gunung Tahan, Peninsular Malaysia's highest peak at 2,187m.

He told The Straits Times: "I jumped in and tried to help him, but the water was too strong. I had told him this is a hard mountain to climb, but he said that he trained by walking 20km every day."

He added that he had approached Mr Nawaz to take his bag away from him, but did not manage to do so in time.

Mr Nawaz was one of four group members still to cross the river, Sungai Kuala Luis, which is just 6m wide and less than a metre deep.

The area's district police chief Abdul Razak Hassan told The Straits Times it was the first time he has heard of the "kepala air" phenomenon causing a death in his 11 years overseeing the area. He described the incident as a "misadventure".

He added that the rainy season usually lasts from November to January, but that weather patterns had changed. It had been raining for days in the mountainous area.

The river is one of the bigger ones that hikers must pass in order to reach the peak of the mountain.

Mr Nawaz, who was married with three children, was remembered as being helpful and hard-working by his classmates.

He had been a business and technology journalist before taking up a regional corporate and marketing communications role with a technology company, according to a website carrying his profile.

It said he had more than 18 years of experience in the journalism, public relations (PR) and communications and training fields.

He had been planning to hold a "PR pitching bootcamp" in Kuala Lumpur.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs here said it contacted the next of kin immediately. "Our High Commission is in touch with Malaysian counterparts, and is providing consular assistance to the next of kin," a spokesman said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2016, with the headline 'S'porean hiker drowns in Malaysia'. Print Edition | Subscribe