KOTA KINABALU: An earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale struck in Ranau, rattling people living in several districts in the west coast and interior of Sabah.
It also brought back memories of the earthquake that struck on June 5 in 2015 where 18 people were killed on Mount Kinabalu, in the same district where the epicentre was traced at about 9.06pm.
Two aftershocks with magnitudes of 2.8 and 3.2 on the Richter scale were felt at 9.27pm and 10.28pm.
The earthquake, which lasted up to 10 seconds, was the strongest since the 2015 episode where it was recorded at 5.9 on the Richter scale, with over 100 tremors in the months that followed.
As of tonight climbing activity to the 4,095m Mount Kinabalu summit has been suspended temporarily following an order from Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.
Sabah Parks director Dr Jamili Nais when contacted said everyone on the mountain was reported safe and checks are being conducted along the summit trail by park rangers.
There are 209 people on the mountain who are on their way down. They includes climbers, guides, porters, park rangers, contractors, Mountain Search and Rescue (MOSAR) team members, staff of Sutera Sanctuary Lodges and Mountain Torq.
"We have instructed our team there to bring them down tonight," he said.
Jamili said rumblings were heard in the Mesilau side and behind Tunku Abdul Rahman Peak, one of the many peaks on the top part of the mountain, but the debris appeared to have fallen into Low’s Gully.
“Aftershocks were felt but our men are monitoring the summit trail. There is a landslip at the 1.5km mark and an alternative route will be used by those climbing down.
“There is also another landslip near Carson Falls but the route is passable,” he said of updates from those handling the evacuation process.
A Sabah Parks staff said the emergency evacuation was carried out immediately after the earthquake was felt in the Laban Rata area which is at an elevation of 3,272m.
"Guests and staff from the park as well as Sutera Sanctuary (Lodges) were told to gather at a nearby helipad after the tremors were felt," said the staff.
Sutera Sanctuary Lodges runs the accomodation service for climbers on the mountain while Mountain Torq is a company that runs a rockface climbing activity near the peak.
Universiti Malaysia Sabah Geologist Prof Dr Felix Tongkul said many called him after hearing a loud sound before they felt the strong tremors in areas near the mountain such as Mesilau and Kundasang.
“The earthquake is not a tremor that continue from the 2015 incident. This is a new earthquake,” Tongkul added of the quake which was traced to 6.1 degrees north, 116.6 east, about 16km northwest of Ranau, according to the Meteorological Department.
“There will likely be tremors after this and residents in the surrounding areas need to be cautious.”
Mountain guide Richard Soibi said fellow guides in the surrounding villages were also alerted in case an emergency rescue operation was called for.
Sofiana Waslin, a 33 year old assistant researcher with Sabah Parks said she was watching tv at home with the family when they felt the 10-second earthquake.
"Things were falling off the cabinet but nothing broke.
"All five of us rushed outside, some of our neighbours were heard screaming," she said adding that their hilly Kampung Desa Aman was located about 600 metres from Kundasang town located at the foothill of Mount Kinabalu, about 100km from here.
In Penampang, residents could feel the earthquake as it shoock their surroundings.
“I was in a coffeeshop when I felt it. I could als see my drink shaking and the metal grill door nearby shaking when it happened,” said Fred Minihung.
*Reports by: KRISTY INUS, MOHD IZHAM UNNIP ABDULLAH, JUNAIDI LADJANA, AVILA GERALDINE