Malaysia’s earthquake sent boulders “the size of cars” thundering down the crowded slopes of Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, said a survivor who counted himself lucky to be alive as he described the terrifying scene.
Mohammad Razif Hadzri was among more than 150 people on or near the wide summit of the mountain, a popular destination for hikers and climbers, when the 6.0-magnitude quake struck on Friday morning.
Razif, a Malaysian, and six friends were enjoying the stunning views across the Borneo rainforest from the 4,095-metre-high (13,435-foot) mountain when it began to rumble.
“There was a loud sound like a thunder. It only lasted for a while but we were really stunned and we just sat down,” said Razif, 30, an employee at a Malaysian university who was on holiday.
“I saw large rocks, like the size of cars… falling all around us. I also saw landslides around the summit area.”
Miraculously, none in his party were hurt.
Police have said 16 people have been confirmed dead, with two others missing, and many others injured.
“We were lucky the large stones didn`t fall on us, but around us. It was quite scary,” Razif said.
The huge landslides wiped out or blocked up key trails leading to the summit.
Climbing guides who accompany tourists to the top helped Razif and his friends find a way down.
The trip down normally takes about three to four hours but Razif and his group did not reach the mountain`s base until about 17 hours after the quake struck due to the trail damage.
Six Singapore primary school students and one teacher were among the 16 people so far confirmed killed, government authorities said.
Malaysian police say the dead or missing also include several Malaysians, and one each believed to be from China, Japan and the Philippines.
But they were yet to provide a detailed breakdown, saying the poor state of some remains made identification difficult.
Friday`s quake was one of Malaysia`s strongest in decades but there have not been any reports of major damage, nor any casualties outside of those at Mount Kinabalu.
Around 20,000 people complete the relatively easy climb each year.
But climbing has been now suspended for at least three weeks so authorities can make repairs and assess safety risks.