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11 Dead, 8 Missing After Avalanche On Mountain In Borneo

Hikers trapped on Borneo's Mt. Kinabalu on Friday after a magnitude-5.9 earthquake triggered avalanches that closed off the decent route.
Hikers trapped on Borneo's Mt. Kinabalu on Friday after a magnitude-5.9 earthquake triggered avalanches that closed off the decent route.

Updated Saturday 1:45 a.m. ET:

A total of 11 bodies have been recovered after an earthquake triggered an avalanche on Borneo's highest peak. Guides have helped 167 stranded climbers to safety, and eight more are still missing, according to news reports.

The 137 climbers, including an unknown number of foreign tourists, were unable to descent Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo. However, Masidi Manjun, the tourism minister for Sabah state on the island's northeast side, tweeted:

The epicenter of the magnitude-5.9 earthquake was in Ranau district in Sabah state on Malaysian Borneo, according to the country's meteorological department. The tropical island, famed for its biodiversity, is split between Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Malaysian Star reports that most of the climbers were descending after reaching the 13,435-foot peak before sunrise when the quake struck at 7:17 a.m. local time "with boulders and rocks from the granite surface dislodging and rolling down rapidly."

The temblor was violent enough to snap off one of the mountain's distinctive "Donkey's Ear" peaks.

The BBC quotes Masidi as saying 32 guides were assisting the climbers who were moving down "cautiously" because the trail had been damaged. Initial attempts to rescue the climbers with a helicopter had to be abandoned due to bad weather.

"Other than ongoing rescue efforts, our priority is to send food, drinks and warm clothing to those still stranded on the mountain," Masidi said.

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