KOTA KINABALU • Hundreds of people on Malaysia's highest peak Mount Kinabalu were evacuated to safety yesterday, after a 5.2-magnitude earthquake hit the Ranau district in Sabah state.
A total of 239 people, including 130 climbers, were safely brought down from Laban Rata - where climbers stay before attempting to summit - to start point Timpohon Gate by 4.30am yesterday, according to a statement from the Sabah Civil Defence Force.
There were no casualties, it said. But two women were reported to be suffering from acute mountain sickness during the descent.
The earthquake had struck at 9.06pm on Thursday, and the tremors were felt by residents on the west coast of Sabah, including in the state capital Kota Kinabalu, Kundasang, Penampang, Tuaran, Kudat and Kota Marudu.
In addition to the climbers, those brought down by members of the Mountain Search and Rescue squad included employees of hostels on the mountain, construction workers and Sabah Parks staff.
Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement yesterday that it has contacted Singaporeans who had registered their travel plans with the ministry and ascertained that they are safe.
The MFA said: "Singaporeans in the affected areas should take the necessary precautions for their personal safety, heed the instructions of the local authorities, and closely monitor the local news, as there may be aftershocks."
The ministry also advised Singaporeans in Ranau to stay in touch with family and friends.
Firemen said there was no damage reported while various agencies carried out checks on buildings in Ranau and Kundasang.
Meanwhile, Universiti Malaysia Sabah geologist Felix Tongul cautioned residents to brace themselves for more aftershocks from the earthquake. An aftershock with a magnitude of 2.1 was recorded at 9.27pm on Thursday, but was not felt by most people.
A second smaller earthquake measuring 3.1 on the Richter scale jolted Ranau yesterday morning, but no casualties or damage were reported.
Sabah Parks had ceased all climbing activities at Mount Kinabalu to assess the extent of damage caused by the earthquake and whether it was safe to reopen the mountain.
Yesterday, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Masidi Manjun announced all climbing activities will resume today, after a 47-member team inspected the mountain area and found only minor damage on the climbing route.
Datuk Masidi said accommodation buildings in the area were also unaffected by the tremors.
Local residents who live at the foot of the mountain told news agency Bernama they were thankful Thursday's quake did not claim any lives or damage property and infrastructure in contrast to the one that hit three years ago.
In 2015, a 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit Mount Kinabalu, killing 18 climbers and guides, including 10 Singaporeans.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, BERNAMA