Mount Kinabalu reopens to climbers tomorrow with upgraded SOP

Authorities evacuated 239 people from Mount Kinabalu's Panalaban plateau, including 130 climbers. — Picture via Facebook
Authorities evacuated 239 people from Mount Kinabalu's Panalaban plateau, including 130 climbers. — Picture via Facebook

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KOTA KINABALU, March 9 — With the reopening of Mount Kinabalu to climbers tomorrow, authorities have revised the standard operating procedure (SOP) when it comes to informing the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) of earthquakes of a magnitude of 5.0 and above.

Science, Technology and Innovation minister Datuk Madius Tangau said he was revising the SOP for earthquakes in the Mount Kinabalu region because it involved the safety of climbers.

“The current standard is for earthquakes which register at 5.5. But because there was some incident atop the mountain at 5.2, we have decided to revise the standard to 5.0 now,” he said, adding that it was specifically if the epicentre was around Ranau, where earthquakes have been known to occur.

He said that NADMA could then deploy the various agencies to assist in any rescue or disaster management needed.

He said the Meteorological Department had a 15-minute response time, which was under his current SOP of eight minutes.

Last night, a 5.2 scale earthquake with a depth of 5km struck some 16km north of Ranau, near Mount Kinabalu at 9.06pm. Authorities evacuated 239 people from its Panalaban plateau, including 130 climbers.

In an immediate response, all climbing activities to the popular summit were suspended pending damage assessment checks earlier today.

At about 4.45pm, Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun declared that the mountain will be opened tomorrow since the mountain structure and trail had suffered no major damage.

“A team of 47 made the trek up to the summit and found no major damages. “Accommodation structures in Panalaban were not affected and the trail is safe to use.

“After deliberation and consultation with the agencies involved, we have decided to open up the mountain again,” he said, adding that a team of 10, including Sabah Parks director Jamili Nais, will be spending the night at Panalaban just to be sure.

Mount Kinabalu is arguably Sabah’s biggest tourism attraction which draws tourists by the hundreds if not thousands daily. The waiting list for the climb can be months-long.

Meanwhile, Tangau also confirmed that the earthquake saw three aftershocks, the last one at 8am which registered 3.2 on the Richter scale.

He urged the public to download the MyCuaca App to receive the latest updates on weather forecasts, warnings and alerts in the country.

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