Ninth anniversary of Sabah earthquake remembered with memorial service

Heads and staff from several government departments observing a moment of silence at the monument.

KUALA LUMPUR: It was nine years ago, but Ridwan Mohd Taib can still vividly recall the chaos when a 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck Sabah's hilly Ranau district.

He was on leave at the time and had returned to his village in Kampung Lasing, about 3km from the town district.

At that time, he was still a personnel member at the fire station in the east coast Lahad Datu district.

"I was in my room when it shook so violently that it rocked our house," said Ridwan, now the Ranau Fire and Rescue station chief.

"I thought of nothing else and quickly rushed my family out to an open field outside the house.

"As we ran out, I saw all our belongings and household items strewn all over the floor, but we were grateful the earthquake did not leave any structural damage to our house," he added.

Ridwan was among those who paid their respects to the fallen during a solemn memorial service held to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the June 5, 2015 earthquake.

The ceremony was held at the Kiau Gap View, Timpohon Gate at Sabah Parks in the Kundasang highlands, about 92km from the Sabah capital, on Wednesday (June 5).

Ridwan placing a flower at the foot of the brass plaque that was erected near Timpohon Gate to honour the 18 people who lost their lives in the earthquake.Ridwan placing a flower at the foot of the brass plaque that was erected near Timpohon Gate to honour the 18 people who lost their lives in the earthquake.

A moment of silence was observed by those standing before the brass plaque containing the names of the 18 who perished, erected about 2km from the Timpohon Gate.

The Timpohon Gate is the starting point to scale the 4,101m-high mountain, the highest in Malaysia.

A group of Singaporean students and teachers from Tanjong Katong Primary School were killed in rock avalanches during their climb up the mountain following the 7am earthquake.

The quake also claimed the lives of four Sabahan mountain guides.

Also present were heads of departments from the police, district hospital, Sabah Parks, district office, and information department.

Being a dedicated fireman, Ridwan said his heart moved to help out in the search and rescue operations when he learned there were victims trapped on Mount Kinabalu.

However, the department had sufficient people on the ground after summoning all available manpower at the time.

"We send our condolences to the families of all the victims. The Ranau fire department is also extremely grateful for the sacrifices made by everyone involved in the incident.

"Our mountain search and rescue (Mosar) unit is always prepared for any eventuality, with personnel stationed daily at Mount Kinabalu," he said.

Sabah Parks director Dr Maklarin Lakim said the ceremony was held to remember the 18 souls lost in the tragedy and to respect their next of kin.

"This tragedy is a reminder to improve the standard operating procedures (SOP) or safety measures for climbing Mount Kinabalu.

"This ceremony also aimed to assure that it is safe to climb the mountain.

"Several new facilities are in the pipeline, including a training centre for mountain climbing at the summit and the construction of the Layang-Layang hostel at KM4 of the climb route," he said.

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