THE date June 5, 2015 would not soon be forgotten being synonymous with the earthquake that shook the Northern part of the State and where at Mount Kinabalu, rocks were dislodged and rumbled down the craggy terrain. It would remind people of the tragedy where 18 people who were on the path of the deadly cascades, died, including Mountain guides and their wards, mostly children.
Later the mountain spewed water and mud into the rivers, flooding them with debris and rendering clusters of villages and the surrounding areas without clean water for several days.
In the process, homes tumbled into rivers as the watery strength changed riverbanks. People lost their homes that way.
During the whole process the Mountain was closed to climbers and tourists. Periodic tremours had occurred since and as such the place was still too risky to reopen for visitors.
Because of the closure, Mountain guides and porters were left without a source of income. Having worked there all their lives, they had to face reality that it would be a lean time until the mountain tracks were reopened to visitors.
This was when Malaysians came together to lend a hand and dug deep into their pockets. Members of the public came together and pooled their resources to help the Mountain guides and those whose homes were affected by the quake. The Government assisted in various ways and even royalties of other States contributed.
It was this generosity that ensured those who depended on the mountain to eke a living could go on supporting their family. They went on odd jobs and the odd climb to help visiting officials but other than that they were redundant. So the contributions had helped a lot.
For the Mount Kinabalu Porters Association, however, they had fallen on lean times and the 90 members of this association were at a quandary on how they could carry on supporting their family and paying for schools and other necessary expenses. Some who were servicing installments on vehicles wondered whether they would still have this transportation in a couple of months.
They hoped that the relevant authorities and generous members of the public would remember them as they too were affected by the quake and they too had participated in the rescue during the quake.
Daved Simpat, 33, a porter from Kg Kiau Nulu, Kota Belud said he was getting worried as he has a child and a wife to support.
“I have been a porter for seven years now and I have been carrying up items for the restaurant at Laban Rata, and also items belonging to tourists for that duration of time. I go up there at an average of four times a week.”
“What I earn suffice for our sustenance. There are three of us in the family now, my wife and my baby as well as myself. But since the quake, I am going through hard times. I have gone back to rubber tapping but the price of this commodity is not too encouraging either.”
Recalling June 5, he said he was getting ready to go up to the Laban Rata Sutera Sanctuary restaurant.
“We were lining up to carry the items to be transported up to the restaurant. Several porters were with me then and we were chatting with nothing else in my mind but getting up to the mountain with our respective loads.”
“Suddenly we heard a tremendously loud rumbling and the earth seemed to tremble, we staggered on our feet. There was fear among us, and we know it would be dangerous to all of us should be continue our work. We dispersed immediately, as most of us were worried about our family and some left to go home at once.”
“My family was foremost in my mind then so I went home.”
“I however joined in the rescue the next day. There were seven of us porters at that time. There was myself, Karim Soriew, Wilson Singgin, Zulkifli Abd Latiff, Daimis Dapun, Walter Herman and Landobe Lasompa.”
“We carried out the rescue and recover up to 6.5. It was a traumatic experience as I have never seen human bodies in such condition before. We were extremely saddened but we picked them up and carried them back, while we thought of their family and friends who must be hoping for the best at that time.”
Yalix Martin, 35, from Kg Pinousuk Kundasang said he was with Daved during June 5 as he was also lining up to take their allocated loads to the restaurant in Laban Rata.
He spoke of the quake and rumblings like prolonged thunder. He spoke of his fear and his concerned for his parents.
“I went home to see if everybody was alright. I am the fourth son in a family of nine children, but I am the only one unmarried and living at home,” he said.
“I am supporting my aged parents and with the closure of the mountain, I am finding it difficult to make ends meet. Planting vegetables is an option but it doesn’t take care of our immediate needs,” he said.
Hajimin Wasili, 40, from Bundu Tuhan is also a porter, who has been carrying loads for tourists and guests for the last 20 years.
“On the day of the quake I was just getting ready to go to work. It has been two months since and I am getting worried,” he shared.
Being a porter was all he knew and as such starting anew with other income generating activities was difficult for him. Hajimin who is also the chairman of the newly formed Mt Kinabalu Sabah Porters Association said it was a lean time for them and he hoped they would be accorded assistance by generous members of the public and relevant authorities.
Daved stressed that they were asking for help not because they too were involved in the search and rescue during the recent tragedy.
It was because their livelihood has been affected by the closure of the mountain to tourists and climbers.-Sayangsabah