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137 stranded on mountain top after earthquake

There are reports of one death on the mountain.

MALAYSIAN AUTHORITIES ARE racing to try to reach 137 people, some of them injured, who were stranded atop the popular climbing peak of Mount Kinabalu after a strong earthquake triggered dangerous rockfalls.

The 6.0-magnitude quake struck near the mountain around 7:15 am Friday local time, jolting a wide area of the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island.

No deaths or major damage had been reported as of late Friday afternoon.

But Sabah state tourism minister Masidi Manjun told AFP the quake had triggered landslides and sent huge boulders tumbling down the 4,095-metre mountain’s wide granite crown.

Masidi said 137 people were “slowly and cautiously” working their way down the mountain, as an 85-member rescue team was climbing up to reach them.

The climbers, believed to include foreigners, had been stuck on the picturesque summit, slowed by lingering danger from rockfalls and damage to a key trail.

“Its very tricky now. We can’t land a helicopter up there because visibility is so bad, but the people can’t come down on their own because the main route is now impassable,” Masidi said.

State officials were quoted earlier by the New Straits Times saying at least four climbers had suffered injuries including broken bones and head wounds due to falling rocks.

The force of the tremor was so strong that it snapped off one of the two large “Donkey’s Ear” rock outcroppings that form a distinctive part of the peak’s craggy profile, Masidi said.

He said authorities were now focused on trying to get supplies including food, water and warm clothing to the stranded climbers in anticipation of a possibly wet and chilly night.

Kinabalu’s broad but steeply undulating moonscape-like summit is frequently lashed with heavy rain, and night temperatures can dip below freezing despite the tropical latitude.

The US Geological Survey said the quake struck at a depth of 10 kilometres, its epicentre located about 54 kilometres (34 miles) east of Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah. No tsunami warning was issued and there were no initial reports of major damage.

- © AFP, 2015

Read: Earthquake strikes in Wales (and shakes Ireland a tiny bit) >

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