Eight students and two teachers from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) who were on a school trip to Mount Kinabalu were uncontactable after a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck Sabah yesterday (June 5).
They were among a total of 29 students and eight teachers from TKPS on the excursion. In a statement issued at about 9pm, a Ministry of Education (MOE) spokesperson said others had been accounted for.
“We are continuing efforts to contact the remaining (students and teachers). Parents have been informed and kept updated on the situation,” the spokesperson said.
Fifty-eight students and eight teachers from two other schools — Fuchun Secondary and Greenridge Secondary — were also on Mount Kinabalu when the quake occurred. They were safe, and arrangements had been made for them to return to Singapore, said the spokesperson. They arrived at Changi Airport after midnight yesterday. MOE officials were at the airport to receive the students and teachers. In a statement issued at about 12.30am, MOE said arrangements were being made to fly the families of students and teachers who were unaccounted for to Kota Kinabalu this morning.
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat told TODAY: “A team of MOE officials and our teachers and counsellors will be together with the team , and will be together with the parents to give our utmost support. We are also working with the Malaysian authorities to give every assistance possible to continue with this operation.”
“It is a very difficult time for the parents and … a very difficult time for everyone.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has despatched a Crisis Response Team (CRT) to Sabah to help Singaporeans there. Singapore’s High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur has also contacted Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to offer support.
The quake struck near the mountain around 7.15 am yesterday, jolting a wide area of Sabah. Tremors were felt as far as the northern Kudat and Kota Marudu districts, and Beaufort in the south.
Since news of the quake broke yesterday morning, parents and relatives continued to stream in to TKPS throughout the day. The Malaysian media reported that two bodies, believed to be of a local guide and a 12-year-old female Singaporean student, had been recovered from Mount Kinabalu. When TODAY visited TKPS, parents and relatives were seen going in and out of the school premises deep into the night. Some had been there since morning, waiting for updates.
A parent, Mr James Ho, said: “For 12 hours, all we saw were teachers, the principal comforting us (and) giving us food. But beyond the school, we are not seeing any help.”
Another parent, Mr Sadri Farick, said he had been informed that his son Emyr Uzayr, who is in Primary 6, had been found with leg injuries, but there were no details. “We got news from one of the boys that there were boulders dropping in front (of them) and (their path) was cut off. I’m very upset by the information and resources we’re getting.”
Primary 6 student Emyr Uzayr was rescued with leg injuries, according to his father Sadri Farick. The extent of his injuries is not known. Photo: Sadri Farick
Posting on Facebook at about 10.40pm, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: “We are doing all we can to reach them and I really hope they are alright.” Mr Lee said that the authorities had contacted their Malaysian counterparts yesterday afternoon to offer support and help. “My thoughts are with those affected by the earthquake, and their families,” he added.
About half an hour later, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat also posted on Facebook: “Our hearts and thoughts are with the families of the students and staff of Tanjong Katong Primary School… We will do all we can to find the missing students and teachers in Mount Kinabalu.”
Mr Heng, who visited TKPS at close to 1am, added that MOE staff are in touch with the families of these students and teachers.
Foreign Minister K Shanmugam also took to the social networking site, saying that he had been monitoring the incident. He also outlined the efforts by his ministry to provide assistance to Singaporeans in Sabah. “My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected in the disaster,” he said.
MFA said that there are more than 100 registered Singaporeans in Sabah during the earthquake. As of 7.30pm yesterday, the ministry has contacted the majority of them and they were safe.