Kinabalu quake survivor tells harrowing tale of descent

Picture shows an injured climber being brought down from Mount Kinabalu, June 6, 2015. — File pic
Picture shows an injured climber being brought down from Mount Kinabalu, June 6, 2015. — File pic

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KUNDASANG, June 7 — Fear. Hope. Despair. Relief. In an 18-hour ordeal to escape quake-hit Mount Kinabalu, Razif Hadri’s emotions dipped and climbed as though to mirror the craggy terrain on which he had been trapped.

According to the 30-year-old, it was an emotional rollercoaster far more traumatic than anything he has ever experienced, starting from the moment tremors were first felt on the mountain on Friday morning.

Although comfortable on the mountainous terrain thanks to his sports science background, Razif said the hours of being stranded on the peak and failed rescue attempts preyed on his mind.

“When I first felt the earthquake, we weren’t sure what it was but suddenly we saw rocks falling apart and down off the mountain. It was like a scene out of an action movie,” he said when contacted by Malay Mail Online.

Razif was travelling in Kota Kinabalu in a group of eight family and friends from various parts of Malaysia. He and his brother, Rahimi, had arrived at Low’s peak of Mount Kinabalu at 5am and enjoying the view while taking photos when they felt the 5.9 earthquake.

“We were scared but thankfully we were in a safe area out of danger on the summit plateau and soon gathered our wits,” he said.

When the situation calmed down, the climbers and their guides soon realised the normal routes were covered in rubble and unsafe, before calling the Sabah Parks headquarters for help.

“We were told very early on that a helicopter would come to rescue us. We just had to stay safe and wait,” he said, adding that they filled the time gathering information, talking to fellow climbers and motivating each other

 However, over the course of the day, emotions changed as rescue attempt after attempt failed due to heavy mist and clouds in the area.

“We also heard that a group of climbers who had taken the via ferrata route failed to avoid the falling rocks and had died. But we couldn’t be sure and of course this scared us too. Some were crying but we tried to calm ourselves down and also prayed,” he said.

Razif said that staying calm and thinking positively had been instrumental during the crisis, as was his experience as a camp counsellor and outdoors guide.

“I always thought to myself that we were going to be fine and make it out safe, it was just a matter of how,” he said.

He said that helicopters could not land and at one point dropped food for those stranded, but it missed the mark and fell over into the gorge.

By 5pm on Friday, the police and army helicopters communicated their inability to make it to the mountaintop, the guides and climbers decided they would make their way down.

“It was risky, but not as risky as staying on the mountain,” he said, adding that the trail showed new cracks and was strewn with rubble.

The group began their descent towards Laban Rata at about 5pm and reached at about 7pm.

Describing Laban Rata as a makeshift campsite, the group managed to get some food and rest and continued their descent at 8pm towards Timpohon Gate. They arrived back at 1am after using alternative trails as assisted by the mountain guides.

Certified free from injuries, the group drove straight to Kota Kinabalu and spent the day recuperating before heading back to Kuala Lumpur today.

“This was definitely one of my most memorable experiences. I’ve never felt an earthquake before so I think that was the scariest experience I’ve ever had.

“But it certainly doesn’t stop me from wanting to climb the mountain again in the future. I really love the outdoors and Mount Kinabalu will always be special to me,” said Razif.

The magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck Sabah’s interior district of Ranau close to Kinabalu Park creating the worst earthquake disaster to hit Malaysia.

The official death toll is currently at 13, with six people still unaccounted for.

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