Malaysia quake death toll at 16, search continues

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 07, 2015 7:35 AM

By Anuradha Raghu

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian authorities said on Sunday 16 bodies had been recovered from the country's highest peak Mount Kinabalu after a magnitude 6 earthquake caused landslides and aftershocks.

The victims were 6 Malaysians, one from the Philippines, China and Japan, and 7 Singaporeans, including children who were on a school trekking trip.

Minister for Tourism, Culture and Environment Masidi Manjun told reporters in Kinabalu park that two people were listed as missing and that body parts had been found.

The search and rescue operations would continue on Monday, Manjun said.

Some climbers managed to make it down but more than 130 from 16 countries had been stranded on the mountain on Borneo island when the quake struck on Friday.

Rescue and recovery operations have been hampered by rubble and thick clouds which prevented helicopters from quickly retrieving the bodies.

"KM6.5 of the route was dubbed "river of stones" when earthquake struck early Friday which rendered the track impassable, trapping climbers," Manjun said on Twitter.

In Singapore, the prime minister's office said the children caught in the quake were from Tanjong Katong primary school.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong declared June 8 a day of national mourning.

"State flags on all government buildings will be flown at half-mast," the prime minister said in a Facebook posting.

Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the country needed its own earthquake monitoring center.

"In the latest incident, no one issued any warning. It may happen again and we do not have a department responsible to monitor impending disasters here," state news agency Bernama quoted him as saying at the Kinabalu site on Sunday.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the quake was about 54 km (33 miles) from the state capital of Kota Kinabalu.

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)