More than 130 climbers are slowly making their way down one of Southeast Asia's highest peaks after becoming trapped by an earthquake. A rescue team has been sent to intercept the group. Fatalities have been reported.
Authorities in eastern Malaysia were working late into Friday night to help a large group of hikers left stranded on Mount Kinabalu after a landslide blocked their main path down.
At least two climbers were killed when the 6.0-magnitude quake struck the state of Sabah on Borneo island early Friday morning, sending large boulders hurtling down the 4,095-meter (13,435-foot) mountain.
"The two victims were believed to be that of a Malaysian mountain guide and female Singaporean student," a police officer told German news agency DPA.
Sabah Tourism Minister Masidi Manjun confirmed on Twitter there had been fatalities, while local media reported that a number climbers had suffered injuries from falling rocks.
Masidi said 137 stranded climbers were descending the mountain "slowly and cautiously," and that a rescue team with helpers from local villages had been sent to meet them. Authorities were also aiming to get water, food and warm clothing to the group before the cooler nighttime temperatures set in.
"It's 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.
Loose boulders were continuing to fall several hours after the tremor, prompting authorities to close the mountain to climbers until further notice. The force of the quake was so strong that it snapped off one of the Kinabalu's landmark "Donkey's Ear" rock outcroppings.
Kinabalu is Malaysia's highest peak and one of the country's most popular climbing spots, attracting thousands of mountaineers from around the world each year.
It's believed climbers from some 16 countries had been on the mountain at the time of the quake, including Malaysia, Singapore, the US, Australia, Belgium and France.
nm/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)