Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Sabah quake: ‘Sorrowful’ atmosphere on mountain, says guide who led students on trip

SINGAPORE — Adventure guide Mohamad Amin Mohamad Nor, 29, who had led the fateful trip that the Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) teachers and students made to Mount Kinabalu, had a recurring thought for the past two days as he stayed behind in Sabah to tie up the loose ends, including transporting home the trekkers’ personal belongings.

“What’s in my mind ... was it was me who brought them out (to Mt Kinabalu), I want to help to bring them all back ... Being the group leader who brought 39 others out with me, but I don’t have all of them back together with me … the feeling is just …” said Mr Amin, his voice breaking off mid-sentence.

Six TKPS Primary 6 students and one teacher were killed by the earthquake which struck on Friday morning. Mr Amin’s colleague, Muhammad Daanish Amran, 22, was among the fatalities.

Mr Amin, who was greeted by family and friends when he touched down at Changi Airport yesterday, was among three Camp Challenge guides who went on the trip with the TKPS trekkers.

He decided to return home on Sunday night to settle the administrative matters after completing his duties on Mount Kinabalu. Mr Amin, who has a decade of experience in guiding adventure tours, described the atmosphere on the mountain as “sorrowful”.

He can still vividly remember what happened when the earthquake struck. He had just finished helping some TKPS students — who were about to start on the Via Ferrata route — put on their helmets and harnesses, and had said goodbye. Back in his room, he felt the hut where the group was staying shake violently, and he ran out to the lounge area. “I was able to see a small part of the Via Ferrata (route) and there were big rocks rolling down. I knew the kids were already up there,” said Mr Amin.

Having little time to let what he saw sink in, he rushed back into the hut to ensure the safety of the other students.

Mr Amin said he will fondly remember the months of pre-trip training with the “energetic and lively” TKPS pupils. “I will still go along on such adventure trips in future, but taking along kids … I’m not sure … maybe,” he said. NG JING YNG

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