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Survivors tell of harrowing time when quake struck

SINGAPORE — Tanjong Katong Primary School student Tristan Wing, 12, was all ready to start scaling the 430m-long Walk the Torq route on Mount Kinabalu when boulders begun rolling down from all sides.

Survivors tell of harrowing time when quake struck

Climbers make their way down the Timpohan Trail with the help of local guides after Friday’s earthquake. Photo: AP

SINGAPORE — Tanjong Katong Primary School student Tristan Wing, 12, was all ready to start scaling the 430m-long Walk the Torq route on Mount Kinabalu when boulders begun rolling down from all sides.

In an instant, he went from looking excitedly at his teachers and schoolmates — around 20 of them who were already scaling the route before him — to quickly going down on his knees at the shouts of a local guide.

His father Alec Wing, in sharing this account yesterday, said that the teachers told the students to get close together and tried to shield the children from falling rocks. He added that he was grateful to the teachers for what they did.

“The boulders could be felt hitting my son’s backpack,” said Mr Wing. He added that his son, together with other students, teachers and guides, then quickly made their way down for three hours non-stop to get to a safe area.

Mr Wing said Tristan is trying to rest and recover from the loss of his friends.

“We are keeping an eye on our child to look out for any signs of stress that was caused by trauma,” said Mr Wing, who works in the technology industry. “For those who have (died), we feel their (families’) pain. We don’t think any parent should go through that.”

Another student who only wanted to be known as Akshat experienced a different kind of jolt when the earthquake struck.

Having sat out from scaling the mountain route as he was feeling lethargic, the 12-year-old was still half-asleep when he thought he felt someone trying to shake him awake.

“When I opened my eyes, (I thought) who is there? There’s nobody trying to shake me up. Then suddenly this tour guide came in and said ‘Wake up, wake up … There’s an earthquake, run to the helipad!’” he said.

But the helicopter did not arrive because of the bad weather, and together with the other students who did not trek, they spent the next three hours speeding downhill to the Mount Kinabalu base camp.

On his return to Singapore on Saturday, he said: “Lucky, because physically, I am not injured. But I am feeling sad for those who didn’t come home.”

Ms Hazreen Hussain, 38, shared how her daughter was next in line to start her trek when the group heard a “thunderous sound”.

The teachers then called for the students to gather together before using their bodies to shield the students, said Ms Hazreen.

“If you ask me, the teachers are the heroes. From what I heard from the kids, the teachers got up even though they were injured and some even took the blows to cover their students,” added the real estate agent.

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