Last 2 victims still being identified
FORENSIC specialists are working overtime to determine the identities of the last two victims of the Mount Kinabalu earthquake that struck on Friday, said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Mr Najib said a family member of one of the presumed victims was in Kota Kinabalu to provide a DNA sample to aid the identification process.
"Another family has chosen to send the DNA data via e-mail and it is being processed," Mr Najib said.
He said the two victims were said to be a teacher and a pupil from the Tanjong Katong Primary School in Singapore.
"It will not take much longer. Our forensic specialists have been working 14 to 16 hours a day to identify the victims," Mr Najib added.
The latest seismic equipment will also be installed on Mount Kinabalu to minimise the likelihood of anyone getting caught in an earthquake there in the future, he said, adding that the seismic sensors would enable geologists to monitor any ground activity on the mountain and issue warnings for an evacuation if there was danger of an imminent earthquake.
"There is no equipment in the world that can predict when an earthquake will happen, but specialists can keep track of seismic activity through the monitoring equipment," he said after a briefing by senior search and rescue officials as well as Universiti Malaysia Sabah geologist Felix Tongkul.
Mr Najib said all mountain guides would, in the future, be equipped with walkie-talkies to enable them to communicate during emergencies.
He said each mountain guide would be allowed to escort a maximum of six climbers on treks up the mountain.
Helicopter landing pads at Laban Rata and other locations on the mountain would be expanded to enable larger military aircraft to land safely.
The prime minister was satisfied with the search and rescue operations mounted by various agencies including the Fire and Rescues Services Department, the military and police.
"Everything humanly possible was done under the circumstances," he said, adding that thick clouds and strong winds hampered the use of helicopters during the rescue operations.
"Those who indulge in finger-pointing and claim that not enough was done are wrong," added Mr Najib, who also met the mountain guides involved in the operations.
However, he said that special recognition should be given to the guides who were instrumental in saving the lives of nearly 200 stranded climbers on the mountain following the earthquake.
"Their courage is extraordinary," he said to the applause of more than 100 mountain guides at the meeting in the Kinabalu Park Hall.
Malaysia will also review the safety protocols for climbers in Kinabalu, which may include an age limit, after Friday's 6.0-magnitude quake, said Malaysian Minister of Youth and Sports Khairy Jamaluddin.
But the authorities will study the seismic threat before deciding on the measures, Mr Khairy said during a visit to Tanjong Katong Primary School in Singapore yesterday to pay his respects to those who died in the quake.
"Obviously it's a big shock for us. This will require us to look at the safety protocols for climbers in Kinabalu," he told reporters at a condolence site set up in the school canteen. "This changes everything. We've never had an earthquake with the epicentre so close to the mountain."
According to the Malaysian media, Sabah is considering the possibility of allowing only those aged above 15 to climb the mountain. The official Mount Kinabalu website states that climbers should be at least 10 years old.
The victims from Singapore were mostly 12-year-olds.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, THE STRAITS TIMES