Emotional tribute to Sabah quake victims on first anniversary of disaster

File photo of tributes bearing the names of the students and teacher confirmed dead in the Mount Kinabalu quake. — TODAY pic
File photo of tributes bearing the names of the students and teacher confirmed dead in the Mount Kinabalu quake. — TODAY pic

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KOTA KINABALU, June 6 — The families, friends and teachers of the 10 Singaporeans who died in the earthquake that rocked Mount Kinabalu last year gathered to pay an emotional tribute yesterday at the mountain as well as Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS).

At Pendant Hut at Panalaban Base Camp (formerly known as Laban Rata Base Camp), a group of 20 climbers from Singapore lit candles and placed flowers, ribbons and painted stones in a mark of respect to the 10 victims — comprising seven students and two teachers from TKPS and an adventure guide who accompanied them during that ill-fated leadership-building expedition.

At the school in Seraya Road, parents and students huddled together to observe a minute of silence at 7.15am — the minute the quake struck a year ago — in what TKPS principal Caroline Wu described as a “very emotional morning”.

“While the surviving students have progressed on to their respective secondary schools, today being the first anniversary, it is understandable that emotions ran high,” she added. “We are very appreciative of the support, care, concern and generosity shown by the public during the past year.”

The group of 20 climbers arrived in Sabah on June 2 and, over the past three days, held a tree-planting memorial and donated books to the children living on Mount Kinabalu.

The ceremony at the mountain was led by Karen Jhala, whose daughter Sonia was among those killed in the 5.9-magnitude temblor off the coast of Sabah, which sent large boulders crashing down the mountainside.

TKPS had also given the group notes written by students, parents and teachers to be read out on their behalf. One note, from the mother of Emilie Giovanna Ramu who perished in the earthquake, was read out by Joyce Lim.

Overwrought by emotion while reading out the letter, Lim — whose own daughter, Chantal, survived the tragedy and joined her and her husband at the ceremony — said: “I miss her so much. The more time goes, the more I miss her. I love you, Emilie.”

One note, from the family of Ameer Ryyan Mohd Adeed Sanjay, was written by his sister and read out by Mimi Juliana Engstrom, the mother of Ameer’s former schoolmate Tristan.

“Dear abang Ryyan, I miss you very much. I wish you could come back and play with me. It’s not fun anymore without you. I am lonely but I want you to be happy in heaven. I miss you and I love you very, very much. Have fun in heaven till I meet you again. Always your baby sister.”

During the ceremony, which was broadcast via Facebook Live by Channel NewsAsia, heartfelt messages of condolences and support also poured in from members of the public.

Erica Ong wrote: “Your family is not alone, the whole of Singapore shares your loss.”

In a post on his Facebook page, Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng wrote: “Let’s always remember the bravery, resilience and teamwork of the TKPS Omega Challenge 2015 team, and the compassion and unity that Singaporeans showed in the aftermath of the earthquake.”

After the disaster on June 5 last year, a day of national remembrance was declared, where state flags were flown at half-mast at government buildings and several locations around Singapore observed a minute of silence.

Dignitaries, members of the public and athletes who were competing at the South-east Asian Games in Singapore during that period also visited the school to pay tribute. — TODAY

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