KOTA KINABALU: Fire and Rescue services personnel, shown in a picture and accused of shirking, were in reality resting after a gruelling 30-hour operation atop Mount Kinabalu.
The three men were taking a break at about noon on June 6 after they and other rescuers had assisted survivors of the magnitude 5.9 earthquake to safety.
Ranau fire station chief Jimmy Lagung, who was in the photo, said he and emergency medical and rescue services personnel Badree Insui and Mohamad Hazrulnizam Mohd Zain had just eaten lunch when someone took the picture.
“We resumed our duties a few minutes after that,” he said.
He explained that they were among the first rescuers to arrive at Timpohon Gate after the 7.29am quake on June 5 and had been on continuous duty at the mountain.
He said it was disappointing to see the picture with the criticisms by people on social media.
“They don’t know what happened and what we were doing. But it doesn’t matter what people think,” Jimmy said.
“We did our part, saving as many people as we could.”
Another fireman, Spencer Stevenly, was among the first to climb to Laban Rata, with colleagues Jimmy Alexius and Dahlan Saharom.
They started their climb at about 9am – an hour and a half after the quake – and arrived in the evening to help the people who were stranded when trails were blocked by fallen boulders.
They helped bring down 259 people – including several injured – to safety on foot within 24 hours of the disaster.
Mountain guide Lawrence Gopog, 43, said that the firemen and other rescue personnel were of great help.
“They may not have known the mountain terrain well but they did their best and brought along vital equipment,” he said.
“We worked well together and I really respect them.”
Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Datuk Rahman Dahlan urged the public to understand the situation faced by the rescuers and to empathise with them.
A foreign trekker, who was among those stranded on the mountain and saved that day, claimed that some rescue personnel had been idle.
The quake killed 18 people, among them mountain guides and primary schoolchildren from Singapore.