The death toll from a 6.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia's Sabah state early Friday rose to 16, state authorities said Monday. Sabah state tourism minister Masidi Manjun reportedly said that the victims were seven Singaporeans, six Malaysians, and a Filipino, Chinese and Japanese national each.
Singapore's government, however, said that eight of its citizens, including six students and their teacher from the Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) and an adventure guide, were among the dead.
"Our hearts go out to their families, and to the TKPS community," Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a statement on Sunday, praising the children for "striving to stretch their limits and take on new challenges."
Singapore and Malaysia's Sabah state on Monday observed a day of remembrance for those killed in the earthquake.
"State flags on all Government buildings will be flown at half-mast. One minute of silence will be observed at the beginning of the day at all SEA Games venues," Loong said. "May this tragic incident strengthen our sense of togetherness, and our resolve to overcome adversity and prevail as one united Singapore." The Southeast Asian (SEA) Games returned to Singapore this year after a 22-year hiatus. It began on June 5 and will continue through June 16.
Mount Kinabalu, one of the tallest peaks in Southeast Asia, counts among the region's most popular tourist attractions. Nationals from China, the United States, the Philippines, the U.K., Thailand, Turkey and Japan were also on the mountain at the time of the quake.
More than 130 people were trapped on the mountain after the quake triggered landslides on Friday. The earthquake, which had a depth of nearly 6 miles, with its epicenter located about 7 miles from the town of Ranau, damaged several roads and buildings on Sabah's west coast.
Masidi reportedly said that two Singaporean climbers, a student and teacher, were still missing.
Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan blamed the tragedy on a group of 10 tourists from Europe and Canada who stripped naked on the mountain last week.
“Whether other people believe this or not, it’s what we Sabahans believe. When the earthquake happened, it’s like a confirmation of our beliefs. ... It is a sacred mountain and you cannot take it lightly,” Kitingan said, adding that a special ritual would be conducted to "appease the mountain spirit," CBS News reported.