Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mountain guides look forward to reopening of quake-hit Mount Kinabalu

PENAMPANG: Three weeks after the 5.9 magnitude earthquake in Kundasang which claimed the lives of 18 people, the mountain guides who depend on bringing climbers up and down Mount Kinabalu are still facing an uncertain future.

Many of the more than 200 mountain guides registered with the Kinabalu Mountain Guides Association are now jobless as guiding climbers on Mount Kinabalu was their only source of income.

Therefore the announcement by Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun that Mount Kinabalu is expected to be reopened to climbers in early September was received with high hopes by the mountain guides.

“If this is a reality, then we express our gratitude to all concerned for making it happen as we can go back to earning an living. We really hope that it will reopen. For now, we are supporting our families through the financial assistance from the government and the donations that we have received from all generous donors,” Kinabalu Mountain Guides Association chairman Richard Soibi said.

Richard, who was met at the fund raising dinner organised by the Society of Hope for the families of the mountain guides who died in the earthquake on June 5 and the Kinabalu Mountain Guides Association, said this when asked to comment on Masidi’s announcement last week.

Masidi was reported to have said that once reopened, the number of people on the mountain at any one time would be reduced by about half, from 192 to about 90, in the early stages of its reopening, to climbers.

“The safety of climbers is of utmost priority. We do not want to take a risk by maintaining the number as in the past,” he told reporters after handing over contributions to the victims of the June 5 earthquake.

According to Richard, at the moment, the donations are being disbursed in stages to all the members of the association so that they will have a source of income until the time when they can all go back to work.

He added that Sabah Parks director Dr Jamili Nais had agreed that mountain guides would be hired to help out with the repair works of the trail up Mount Kinabalu.

“In fact on June 22, a group of mountain guides together with Kinabalu Park, Sutera Sanctuary Lodge and Mountain Torq staff had gone up the mountain to survey and evaluate the damage on the trail but because of the continuing tremors they were instructed to descend,” he said.