Monday, April 04, 2016

New measures to enhance hikers’ safety on Mount Kinabalu

KOTA KINABALU, April 4 — In the aftermath of the magnitude 6.0 earthquake that struck Mount Kinabalu nearly 10 months ago, the local authorities have identified several measures to enhance the safety of hikers, ranging from plans to install rockfall barriers to putting personnel on standby to help climbers.

The mountain was fully opened to hikers in December last year, after a new 1km trail to the summit — called Ranau Trail — was completed by Sabah Parks, mountain guides and local villagers. Construction on a second trail to the summit, Kota Belud, started on April 1 and will take about three months to complete, said Sabah Parks director Jamili Nais.

“The old trail to the summit was devastated (by the earthquake)... It is beyond repair and dangerous, so we built new trails,” he told TODAY at a reception dinner for the local government and mountain guides hosted by Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan last Saturday.

Dr Jamili said geological experts from countries such as Japan and Canada visited Mount Kinabalu after the June 5 earthquake and recommended installing rockfall barriers — metal nets to catch falling rocks — in certain spots to prevent a repeat of the situation last year, where hikers, including students from Tanjong Katong Primary School, were crushed during the earthquake.

“(We expect the rockfall barriers to be) completed in stages ... Phase One is expected to (be completed) by the end of this year,” said Dr Jamili.

Meanwhile, about five to six members from Malaysia’s first mountain search and rescue team (MOSAR) are on duty at Mount Kinabalu every day to help climbers in case they get injured on the trails. The unit, which was formed after the earthquake, comprises 38 mountain guides who double up as auxiliary firefighters under the Malaysian Fire and Rescue Services Department.

Nuhairi Kintai, 32, who joined MOSAR but still freelances as a mountain guide, said his shift from 8am to 4pm earns him an allowance of RM6 per hour. So far, he has encountered cases where climbers have sprained their ankles or suffered from acute mountain sickness.

“I had four climbers under my care during the earthquake. At that time, I wanted to help more people but I couldn’t. So now, I not only want to be a mountain guide, I also want to save people if anything happens,” he added.