KOTA KINABALU, June 2 ― A year following the deadly earthquake in Sabah that shocked the nation, efforts are being carried out to pay tribute to those killed while measures have been taken to improve safety for climbers on the mountain.
State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said that the state wanted to commemorate the event in which 18 people died, with a symbolic plaque along the route to the mountain.
“The plaque will be placed on one of the granite stones that was part of the rubble that came down during the earthquake. We want climbers to see it and remember the event, and be reminded that nature is in control despite our best preparations,” he said.
The simple but meaningful monument will be placed along Kiau gate, some 1km upwards of Timpohon gate, where climbers begin their trek.
Other than that, authorities are also working on a commemorative museum within the Kinabalu Park to pay tribute to the victims and honour the mountain guides who had sacrificed and put their lives on the line during the earthquake on June 5 last year.
“We are also maintaining one of the collapsed huts on mountain, fenced off if possible as a permanent museum piece to tell of ferocity of the earthquake at the time,” he said.
Masidi said this was the state government’s way of remembering and recording history, adding that despite the tragedy, several positive facets of human behaviour were on display during the time.
A 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck the state last year, with the epicentre near Sabah’s crowning glory ― Mount Kinabalu. The unprecedented event shook the surroundings and damaged buildings, even taking off the iconic “Donkey Ears” peak on Mount Kinabalu.
18 people, mostly Singaporean school children on a expedition, died during the quake, along with four mountain guides, a Chinese and a Japanese tourist. The mountain was closed off to climbers for six months to facilitate repairs.
Since it was reopened in December 2015, some 17,274 climbers have scaled the mountain, comprising 55 per cent international climbers. The number is about 70 per cent of its capacity, owing to a slow start but the current occupancy is about 80 to 90 per cent.
“We are also always looking to upgrade the mountain trail. The Ranau trail is open now, and the Kota Belud trail is some 80 per cent complete.
“We are looking at putting in a rockfall barrier as a further safety measure, for the cost of about RM6 million. This will hopefully be up within a year,” he said.
The memorial event will be held this Sunday, June 5 along the mountain’s base. Some 27 relatives of the Singaporean victims who died in last year’s tragedy will be climbing the mountain this year to mark the event.