Rescuers on Malaysia’s highest peak on Sunday searched for six climbers after recovering 13 dead from a strong earthquake that had trapped scores of trekkers. One survivor said she waited for a rescue helicopter that never came. A magnitude-5.9 earthquake on Friday sent rocks and boulders raining down the trekking routes on 4,095-meter-high Mount Kinabalu in eastern Sabah state on Borneo island. Nine of the bodies found Saturday were flown out by helicopter, while the other two were brought down by foot, said district police official Farhan Lee Abdullah. Most of the other climbers made it down the mountain in the darkness Saturday, some with broken limbs and one in a coma. Amanda Peter said local guides told her group of 21 climbers that a helicopter would pick them up, but when it did not, they decided to walk after a frustrating nine-hour wait.
The guide said we either die of waiting or we die trying. So we all chose to try walking down ourselves.
Amanda Peter, 23-year-old Sabah native
Sabah Tourism Minister Masidi Manjun said in a tweet “it’s easy to pick on weaknesses” of the search-and-rescue operation and “I’m sure they are many.” He said the shortcomings will be examined, but “now is not the time to blame.” The two dead retrieved Friday evening were a 30-year-old local guide and a 12-year-old Singaporean student, Farhan said. About 60 rescuers and four helicopters were combing the mountain, where loose rocks and boulders that fell during the quake blocked part of the main route. The quake also damaged roads and buildings, including schools and a hospital on Sabah’s west coast. It also broke one of the twin rock formations on the mountain known as the “Donkey’s Ears.”