June 07, 2015 - 2:26 PM
TORONTO - The Department of Foreign Affairs says it is assisting two Canadians barred from leaving Malaysia, amid reports the pair could be charged after allegedly posing naked atop the country's highest peak.
Spokesman Nicolas Doire says the department is aware they have been prevented from leaving the country, adding that Canadian consular officials in Malaysia are in contact with local authorities.
Foreign Affairs would not confirm the identity of the Canadians, citing privacy concerns, but Malaysia's foreign affairs ministry identified them as Lindsey Petersen and his sister Danielle Petersen.
Meanwhile, rescuers searched for six climbers Sunday after recovering 13 dead from a strong earthquake that had trapped scores of trekkers. One survivor said she waited for a rescue helicopter that never came.
A magnitude-5.9 earthquake on Friday sent rocks and boulders raining down the trekking routes on 4,095-meter (13,435-foot) -high Mount Kinabalu in eastern Sabah state on Borneo island.
Nine of the bodies found Saturday were flown out by helicopter, while the other two were brought down by foot, said district police official Farhan Lee Abdullah.
Most of the other climbers made it down the mountain in the darkness early Saturday, some with broken limbs and one in a coma.
One of them, Amanda Peter, said local guides told her group that a helicopter would pick them up, but when it did not, they decided to walk after a frustrating nine-hour wait.
"There were risks of us dying up there of cold overnight," she said. "The guide said we either die of waiting or we die trying. So we all chose to try walking down ourselves."
She said she saw two bodies lying on a flat rock on the way down. "It really affected me as it could have been me. I was lucky to be given a chance to live," she said.
Peter said the descent was "very risky and we were all starving, dehydrated and tired but at least we tried saving ourselves."
The two dead retrieved Friday evening were a 30-year-old local guide and a 12-year-old Singaporean student, Farhan said.
Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan blamed the tragedy on a group of 10 foreigners who "showed disrespect to the sacred mountain" by posing naked at the peak. He said a special ritual would be conducted later to "appease the mountain spirit."
Officials have said a group of foreigners — including the two Canadians — broke away from their entourage and stripped naked before taking photos at the mountain peak on May 30.
Floyd Petersen said he was unaware of the allegations against his son and daughter but said they were travelling through Southeast Asia and had not mentioned the matter to him.
"Would you tell your parents you did this?" he said from his home in Wood Mountain, Sask. on Saturday, adding that the pair only called him periodically from their trip. "I don't have anything to say, I'm just absorbing this."
Local media reported Sunday a senior official with the Sabah Parks said the Canadians could face charges in a native court for allegedly violating local native laws.
The Malaysian Insider reports that Datuk Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin told reporters at the Sabah Park headquarters in Kundasang on Sunday the tourists were in police custody in Kota Kinabalu and could be charged as early as Monday.
— With files from The Associated Press
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015