Monday 8 June 2015

Sabah earthquake: Day of National Remembrance in Singapore on 8 June 2015

Day dedicated to memory of fallen climbers
Nation to observe remembrance day today; more bodies are identified
By Rahul Pathak, Associate Editor, News, The Straits Times, 8 Jun 2015

FRIENDS broke down and strangers were moved to tears as eight people who had left Singapore to climb a mountain returned from its slopes in body bags.

Two other Singaporeans are still listed as missing after last Friday's earthquake on Mount Kinabalu rained rocks on the climbers.

Yesterday appeared to be a day when grief touched political leaders and regular folk. Today will be a day of national remembrance as Singapore reflects on the young lives cut short abruptly.

State flags on all government buildings will be flown at half-mast, said a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office. At all venues where the SEA Games are being held, the day will start with one minute of silence.

"We hope that this collective expression of sympathy and support from all Singaporeans will give solace and comfort to the families and loved ones of the victims," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a Facebook post.

After two days when many of the victims from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) had been deemed missing, but not confirmed dead, a flurry of identifications was announced yesterday.

Five of those named yesterday - Rachel Ho Yann Shiuan, Sonia Jhala, Emilie Giovanna Ramu, Matahom Karyl Mitzi Higuit and Ameer Ryyan Mohd Adeed Sanjay - were all 12 years old. Also on the list were their teacher, 29-year-old Terrence Sebastian Loo Jian Liang and adventure guide Muhammad Daanish Amran, 22.

Carrying its sad cargo of bodies, a Republic of Singapore Air Force plane made its way back here last night.

This means that only 13-year-old Navdeep Singh Jaryal Raj Kumar and teacher Mohammad Ghazi Mohamed, 35, are still listed as missing from the group of 37 that TKPS had sent to Kota Kinabalu.

The school opened its doors despite the June holidays to pay homage to the seven pupils and two teachers who may not return to its campus.

Hundreds of mourners - including weeping pupils, deeply sad alumni and strangers who simply wanted to express their solidarity - gathered at the school to pen their thoughts on little white cards and simply exchange hugs.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who came to offer words of comfort, said: "My heart weeps for them. So many young lives perished, teachers too, all just starting their lives, so it has come as a shock to us."

Senior Minister of State for Education and Law Indranee Rajah was struck by the manner in which parents of pupils were supporting one another.

"For the families who are bereaved, and even for those whose children have come back, I think they should know that they all have friends here who are supporting them," she said.

"The staff and obviously the nation feel very deeply for those who have passed away."

The school reached out to console the bereaved families yesterday. Today, the nation may do the same.

Am very sad to learn that 8 bodies recovered from Mount Kinabalu have been identified as 1 teacher and 6 students from...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday, June 7, 2015

On this Day of National Remembrance, I thought I would share with you this piece by a mother of a Tanjong Katong Primary...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sabah quake: Heng Swee Keat calls on teaching community to remember and honour victims and survivors
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 8 Jun 2015

On Monday, the Day of National Remembrance in the wake of the Sabah earthquake, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat called on the teaching community to remember both those who were lost and those who remain.

"I ask that we, the MOE family, use this day to remember and honour the selflessness of our teachers, the spirit of our students, and the support of our community and friends," he said in an e-mail to public servants in the Ministry of Education.

Eight Singaporeans - six students and one teacher from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS), and an adventure guide who was with them on their trip to Kota Kinabalu - are among the 18 confirmed victims of the 6.0-magnitude quake which struck on Friday. One student and one teacher remain missing.

Please let me share with you a message I sent to all our teachers and schools and MOE staff today…Dear colleagues,...
Posted by Heng Swee Keat on Sunday, June 7, 2015

"All the teachers of TKPS who were on the trip gave their best to watch over our children, and they deserve our greatest respect and gratitude. Our students tell of their teachers shielding them from falling rocks, and continuing to look after them despite their own injuries. Let us remember and live up to their selflessness and courage," said Mr Heng.

The students should also be honoured for being "brave, rugged and tenacious", striving to be the best they can be and being excited about heading forward with their schoolmates, he added. "Let us remember and draw hope from our children's spirit to be the best they can be."

He called on the community to give their support to TKPS principal Caroline Wu and her team. "The TKPS team have rallied together to be a source of strength and support for the survivors, and for the loved ones of those who have passed on or are still missing. They do so even as they struggle with their own grief."

The school's alumni and the local community have also rallied, as have teachers and staff from other schools, he added. "Let us remember and be grateful for this community of support."

Mr Heng also expressed his own support for the MOE officers working hard on the ground to help affected families. "I would like the MOE family to know that Indranee, Ann, Hawazi, and I are fully with you in this difficult time," he said, referring to Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah, Minister of State for Education Sim Ann and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Hawazi Daipi.

The MOE is not alone, either, as officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force, Singapore Police Force, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Transport, Health, Social and Family Development and Defence, and the Singapore Armed Forces "are giving their all to support the next-of-kin and victims", said Mr Heng. "I want to thank the whole of the Public Service for coming together in this way."

Also to be remembered are those in Sabah who suffer the lasting effects of the earthquake, said Mr Heng. "The Malaysian authorities have been helpful and supportive. We keep them in our thoughts for the lives they have tragically lost."

In closing, he hoped that the day of remembrance would also spur the teaching community onwards.

"The selflessness of our teachers reminds us to give our best to our students. The spirit of our children inspires us to be teachers. The support of our community and friends helps us go on when we face difficulties. I hope we remember these today and forever, so that we may live up to our fellow teachers, our students, and our community. Let us keep up our strength and spirit in this time of grief. Let us stand together to support and care for our students, our community, and one another."

* MOE clarifies that TKPS team was on simpler route
The Tanjong Katong Primary School team was on a simpler, less steep route on Mount Kinabalu when the earthquake struck on Jun 5, says the Ministry of Education.
By Ng Jing Yng, TODAY, 11 Jun 2015

The Ministry of Education (MOE) clarified yesterday that the Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) team was on a simpler route on Mount Kinabalu when the earthquake struck.

Compared with the regular Via Ferrata route, where the elevation of the starting point is 3,520m, the pupils, teachers and their guides began on a route at an elevation of 3,411m, stated the MOE.

Mountain Torq, which manages the Via Ferrata, added that this was also a shorter route — 281m instead of the original route, which is 430m long.

An MOE spokesperson said: “This is a less steep route compared to the full Walk the Torq route.” She confirmed that the TKPS teams have been using the simplified route since 2010.

On Sunday, the MOE, based on its initial interviews with teachers and pupils who survived the trip, said the team were on the well-known Via Ferrata route.

A Via Ferrata is a mountain path comprising a series of rungs, rails and cables on the rock face. Climbers must wear helmets and harnesses to attempt this route and must be at least 10 years old.

The school has been sending teams to Mount Kinabalu for the past seven years, attempting the original route for the first two years, said Mountain Torq marketing director Quek I-Gek.

She said the simplified route was also only for a selected group of trekkers. Referring to the TKPS pupils who had taken the Via Ferrata, Ms Quek added: “They’re the best students we’ve guided. Consistently, they’re better physically and mentally.”

Route designed for children above 10, no previous incidents: MOE
By Ng Jing Yng, TODAY, 8 Jun 2015

They were split into five groups, and set to tackle a 430m-long stretch on the Via Ferrata path of Mount Kinabalu early on Friday morning, when the earthquake struck.

About 12 to 15 students and five teachers from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) were on the trail, while others were waiting for their turn, at about 7am. The earthquake occurred some 15 minutes later, sending boulders and rocks tumbling down the mountainside.

These details emerged in a briefing by the Ministry of Education, which gave an account of what happened on the fateful trip, based on recollections of the surviving students and teachers.

That morning, 24 of the 29 students set out to make an attempt on the Walk the Torq trail at 4.30am to 5.30am, accompanied by eight teachers. The remaining five students had chosen to sit it out as they were feeling ill.

The route they were supposed to tackle is on Via Ferrata, a popular option for climbers on the 4,095m-high Mount Kinabalu, run by mountaineering company Mountain Torq.

The path comprises a series of rungs, rails and cables on the rock face. Climbers make their way up, connected to a series of safety cables and wearing harnesses and helmets.

The MOE said the students were divided into groups of four to five, accompanied by one or two teachers and a Mountain Torq instructor.

Three groups were on the Walk the Torq trail at about 7am.

An MOE official at the briefing said it is believed that the Singaporeans who died — six students, one teacher and one guide — were mainly from these three groups.

The students in the remaining groups waiting for their turn huddled as their teachers tried to shield them.

The Walk the Torq route is designed for children who are at least 10 years old and 1.3m tall. It is understood that because mist sets in as early as 8am, trekkers embark on this route before dawn.

The MOE also said TKPS had been organising such activities to Mount Kinabalu for seven years, and seven of the eight teachers who were on the trip had conducted such activities several times.

The students had also undergone two to three months of training before the trip, including climbing stairs and completing runs. Many schools have also made such trips in past years and there have been no reported accidents so far, the MOE said. - “When the earthquake struck, the teachers were all asking the kids to keep together and they were trying to block the kids and shield them from the boulders.”
Posted by TODAY on Sunday, June 7, 2015

Teachers used their bodies to shield students from boulders
By Siau Ming En, Ng Jing Yng and Kelly Ng, TODAY, 8 Jun 2015

When the rocks and boulders shaken loose by the earthquake came tumbling down Mount Kinabalu last Friday, the Tanjong Katong Primary School teachers used their bodies to shield their students from getting hurt.

Parents of the students who survived the disaster told TODAY this and commended the bravery and selflessness of the teachers.

Ms Hazreen Hussain, 38, whose daughter was among those who have returned to Singapore, said: “From what I heard from the kids, teachers got up even though they were injured and some even took the blows to cover their students.

“If you ask me, the teachers are the heroes,” added the real estate agent.

Another parent, Mr Alec Wing, recounted his 12-year-old son Tristan’s account: “When the earthquake struck, the teachers were all asking the kids to keep together and they were trying to block the kids and shield them from the boulders.”

He added that the school and teachers had gone beyond the call of duty.

“Many of the teachers who were with them (on the trip) put themselves in harm’s way and got injured pretty badly. Their spirit is really admirable,” said the permanent resident from Mauritius, who works in the technology sector.

Mr Hafiz Ahmad, who received his niece Amal Ashley Lim, one of the TKPS students who returned from Sabah on Saturday, also said one of the teachers had shielded her and a schoolmate under an overhang when the quake happened.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat joined the parents in lauding the teachers as he gave an update on the two boys evacuated and flown back to a Singapore hospital in the morning.

The parents said their boys told them their teachers shielded them from boulders. I am so moved by their strength and selflessness,” wrote Mr Heng.

Hope turns to grief as school hears grim news
Flowers, tears and remembrance notes at Tanjong Katong Primary
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 8 Jun 2015

THEY returned to the school that had taught them so much.

Some came alone, some with friends and family. Many brought flowers and the comfort only a warm hug can give.

Yesterday, even as Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) mourned the deaths of six pupils and one teacher, other pupils, alumni, parents and staff gathered at a condolence site in the school porch to pen notes of remembrance.

The seven were among a group of 29 pupils and eight teachers on an annual expedition to Mount Kinabalu.

Another pupil and a teacher in the group are still unaccounted for.

The group were on the mountain when a 6.0-magnitude quake hit Sabah, Malaysia, last Friday morning.

When the school opened its doors at about 9am yesterday, many were hopeful that those missing could still be found.

On little cards, they wrote notes praying for the safety of their missing friends. "Come back soon. We miss you," read one brief, unsigned letter. Another said simply, "Stay strong TK!"

But after 12.30pm, when the Ministry of Education (MOE) confirmed the deaths of five more pupils and a teacher - the grief felt was stark. The pupils sobbed, leaning on their teachers, parents and friends for support.

The notes written became those of condolence and remembrance. "Rest in peace."

Former pupil Lee Yoo Jin, now 17, came back to her alma mater with three friends, hoping to get news of a beloved teacher - Mr Mohammad Ghazi Mohamed, 35 - who was still missing.

"He's very fatherly, like a friend to us," said Yoo Jin, who is now studying at Victoria Junior College. "I believe he's missing for a reason. On one of our school yearbooks I remember his quote was 'leave no man behind'."

Some such as 14-year-old Andre Aide Iskandar lost a dear friend. One of the victims, Ameer Ryyan Mohamed Adeed Sanjay, 12, was like a "little brother", said Andre, whose father is coach of the national Under-23 football team.

The duo met six years ago after a football match on Ameer's first day of school. "He's very talented. His footwork and speed really stood out," said Andre. Both boys were in Fandi Ahmad's football academy. "He told me his wish was to become like Fandi."

One Primary 6 boy who managed to escape the carnage came back to school to show his support. "I'm one of the luckiest. Physically, I'm not injured," said Akshat Chaudary, 12.

Among those who visited the school were MPs such as Mr Lim Biow Chuan and Ms Denise Phua, as well as Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah also offered her support to pupils and staff when she visited at 4.30pm.

She said TKPS and MOE are providing counsellors for children and parents.

"What has been very heartening, though, is that they've had this strong sense of spirit of supporting one another," she said.

There are no official figures, but The Straits Times estimates there were more than 200 people in the school by 5pm.

The condolence site will be open today and tomorrow from 8am to 5pm.

ESM Goh told reporters that the incident was totally unexpected and his heart wept for those who lost their lives. "It's a tightly knit community. So many young lives perished, teachers too... This has come as a shock to all of us."

We said our prayers and bade Daanish and Ameer farewell at the Ba’alwie Mosque this morning. It is never easy to lose...
Posted by Yaacob Ibrahim on Monday, June 8, 2015

Was deeply grieved when the deaths of 5 TKPS students and 1 teacher was confirmed earlier today. Our hearts go out to...
Posted by Indranee Rajah on Sunday, June 7, 2015

'Low rate of major quakes in Malaysia'
By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 8 Jun 2015

THE Sabah earthquake came as a surprise because tremors of that size are estimated to happen there only about once a century - and Malaysia does not lie on any tectonic plate boundary, veteran American geologist Kerry Sieh has explained to The Straits Times.

About 95 per cent of earthquakes happen at tectonic plate boundaries when the plates move against each other.

"The rate of occurrence of major earthquakes in Malaysia is low, compared with its neighbours such as Myanmar or Indonesia, where 6.0-magnitude earthquakes can happen every few years or even few months," said Professor Sieh, director of the Earth Observatory of Singapore at Nanyang Technological University.

Unlike Malaysia, places such as Indonesia, Japan and Taiwan lie on plate boundaries.

Earthquakes are more common in Indonesia, for instance, because of the movement of the Indian and Australian plates against the Sundra plate.

The chances of a quake originating under Singapore is smaller than that for Sabah, as history has shown that earthquakes happen less frequently in the Republic's vicinity.

Major earthquakes are rare in Malaysia, which lies just outside the Ring of Fire - the belt of seismic activity running around the Pacific Ocean basin.

The latest quake struck near Mount Kinabalu last Friday morning. Thousands of people complete the relatively easy climb up the popular peak each year.

The United States Geological Survey said the quake struck at a depth of 10km, with its epicentre located about 54km east of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah's capital.

Prof Sieh said aftershocks will continue for several days, adding that it is too early to know what fault produced the quake.

"We know that over the past 60 years, there have been about three 5.0-magnitude or larger earthquakes occurring in Sabah, but there's hardly any Sabah quake data available because there haven't been many quakes happening there," he said.

"This quake will jump-start data collection, but the ability to know when an earthquake will strike is like predicting when a car accident will happen on the expressway.

"Even with the most robust instruments, we can only work with probabilities."

The Earth Observatory of Singapore will release more information on the quake - such as which fault was involved - tomorrow.

It's a sad day for many Singaporeans who are in one way or another connected to the victims of the Mount Kinabalu...
Posted by Adrian Chng on Sunday, June 7, 2015

Singapore mourns young lives lost
Sabah quake victims remembered with minute of silence at SEA Games
By Rachel Chang, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 9 Jun 2015

ACROSS sporting arenas usually overflowing with noise, a deep silence of grief rang out yesterday. On the faces of athletes and spectators alike, the emotions of triumph and defeat were, for a shared moment, replaced by sorrow.

It was Singapore's first Day of National Remembrance, for the victims of a tragedy that ranks among the nation's most heartbreaking for the loss of so many young lives.

From the banks of the Marina Channel to the stands of Jalan Besar Stadium, a minute of silence was observed before all SEA Games events, to remember the lives lost when a 6.0-magnitude earthquake dislodged boulders on Mount Kinabalu last Friday, killing and injuring climbers.

Flags around the nation flew at half-mast.

Sabah, where the total death toll from the quake has reached 18 including eight Singaporeans, similarly marked a day of grief.

Six of the Singaporean victims - Peony Wee Ying Ping, Rachel Ho Yann Shiuan, Sonia Jhala, Emilie Giovanna Ramu, Matahom Karyl Mitzi Higuit and Ameer Ryyan Mohd Adeed Sanjay - were aged just 12, and at the start of what should have been long lives.

The two adults who died - teacher Terrence Sebastian Loo Jian Liang, 29, and adventure guide Muhammad Daanish Amran, 22 - likely did so protecting their young charges.

Pupil Navdeep Singh Jaryal Raj Kumar, 13, and teacher Mohammad Ghazi Mohamed, 35, are the only two still missing among the group of 37 from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) who climbed South-east Asia's highest peak on that fateful day.

Yesterday, the school became the locus of national mourning, with hundreds of people - including alumni, politicians and athletes - visiting its canteen to leave notes and mementos of condolence, and messages of hope for the families of those missing.

TKPS principal Caroline Wu mingled with pupils, parents and guests throughout the day, displaying a stoicism that her son Ethan said on Instagram would give way to tears when she returned home at night.

The gears of grief ground on as two of the Muslim victims were interred yesterday morning, and wakes for the others began.

The 28th SEA Games took on a poignant edge, after it emerged that many of the young victims were budding athletes. They had been singled out for the Kinabalu expedition, which was TKPS' prestigious character-building programme for pupil leaders.

Ameer was devoted to football. Last night, for Singapore's match against Cambodia, national coach Aide Iskandar wore a white jersey printed in his honour.

At the wake for Rachel, whose dream was to be a national netball player, Singapore's netball team turned up and gave her parents an autographed medal.

Shock and agony turned to recrimination in some quarters, as critics questioned whether the expedition was too tough for children and whether it should have been approved.

But alumni and parents defended the programme. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shared on his Facebook page a post by a TKPS parent about how the trip had helped her son mature.

Later, Mr Lee updated his Facebook page again, borrowing from the Ode of Remembrance: "They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

"Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

"At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

"We will remember them."

Evening on a Day of National Remembrance, in memory of the victims of the Mount Kinabalu earthquake. They...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Monday, June 8, 2015

This morning, two families laid their sons to rest. Tonight, six families keep their lights on and sit by their children...
Posted by Heng Swee Keat on Monday, June 8, 2015

Today is a Day of National Remembrance for those who have lost their lives in the recent earthquake at Mount Kinabalu....
Posted by Ministry of Education, Singapore on Monday, June 8, 2015

Hundreds stream into school to offer condolences
Visitors include govt leaders, athletes, current and former pupils
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 9 Jun 2015

SHE was a picture of calm, handling various administrative matters and accompanying visitors like President Tony Tan Keng Yam around the school yesterday.

But the distressing ordeal over the past weekend has taken "an enormous emotional toll" on Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) principal Caroline Wu, according to an Instagram post by her son Ethan.

Six pupils and one teacher from her school died while on an annual expedition to Mount Kinabalu when a 6.0-magnitude quake struck Sabah last Friday. A pupil and teacher are unaccounted for.

"I know how much it hurts her that her students, her kids, are gone," Ethan said in the post, noting that his mother came home in tears one night. He said she had been staying strong throughout "because she had to".

Yesterday, Mrs Wu spoke to current and former pupils, and parents who visited the tribute site in the school. Hundreds streamed in between 8am and 9pm yesterday to mourn those who had lost their lives.

Some, weeping, placed flowers at the entrance to the school, while others wrote on cards that they stuck to condolence boards.

Former pupil Krtyaka Khatwani, 16, who completed a similar learning trip to Mount Kinabalu in 2011, said the school was like her second home. "We are a family. We've always been there for each other. It is only right for us to return and offer our support."

Lab assistant Azizah Abdul Aziz, 48, whose 10-year-old daughter attends TKPS, had made three trips to the school since the tribute site opened on Sunday morning.

"I couldn't sleep for the past few nights," she said. "These children were so young but now they are gone."

Also present were members of the public who had no connection with the school but came out of sympathy. Among them was IT manager David Soh, 38, who dropped in on his way to work.

He said: "The parents of those who lost their lives need not be alone in their suffering as their fellow Singaporeans are behind them."

As of 7pm yesterday, more than 15 boards had been filled with notes. One card read, "Words cannot describe our loss", while another said, "Stay strong, we are behind you".

There was also a display of nine teddy bears - one for each of those who had lost their lives or are missing - with the message, "You are remembered."

Among government leaders who visited the school were Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, and Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong, as well as more than 50 national athletes from the ongoing SEA Games.

Some pupils who had gone on the trip up Mount Kinabalu were there, with cuts and bruises. One was on crutches with a torn ankle tendon and another had a fractured arm in a sling.

Primary 6 pupil Tristan Wing, 12, who had bruises on his back, said many of those who died had been his friends. He said he was relieved to be home and was recovering.

The Ministry of Education has also dispatched a team of counsellors to the school to support families and staff through this difficult time.

"The pupils may not be able to cope with news of the tragedy," said Mr Sean Ng, a lead school counsellor at the ministry.

"We would help them to articulate their thoughts and feelings, so they do not keep these to themselves."

The condolence site will be open today from 8am to 7pm.

As Singapore observed a day of remembrance for those killed by the avalanche of rocks at Mount Kinabalu in Sabah last Friday, those closest to the victims shared their stories. Reporters from The Straits Times spoke to friends and families of the eight who died and the two who are still missing, to find out more about the individuals in whose honour flags flew at half-mast yesterday.

Avid netball player dreamt of being in national team
By Miranda Yeo, The Straits Times, 9 Jun 2015

RACHEL Ho had cried at the airport moments before leaving Singapore on the ill-fated school trip to Kota Kinabalu.

It was one of the rare times she had cried before leaving on an overseas trip, said her father, Mr James Ho, 45.

Mr Ho, who works in a bank, said Rachel was upset as she had forgotten to take along the shirt the team had planned to wear when they reached the summit.

But the 12-year-old never made it to the top.

An earthquake in Sabah last Friday claimed the lives of Rachel and five other children, along with those of a teacher and an adventure guide on the expedition.

"Perhaps that was God's way of telling us that Rachel did not want to leave us," he said.

Holding back tears, Mr Ho said the past week has been a rollercoaster ride for him and his wife - from learning of the earthquake to identifying Rachel's body.

At the time of the accident, she was believed to have been strapped to a rope course by a carabiner. Her body was found with a boulder as large as a car next to her body, he said.

Mr Ho and his wife could identify Rachel as she was wearing a pink jacket. "To see her motionless was unbearable," he said.

Mr Ho said Rachel had a passion for netball and dreamt of being in the national netball team.

She had played for the school team for the past three years. She would practise shooting hoops every day - sometimes even during her recess in school.

One of the last things the family did together was to watch the Singapore-Thailand netball match for the South-east Asia Games.

The netball national team paid a visit to Rachel's wake yesterday afternoon, presenting Mr Ho with an autographed plastic medal.

Choking on tears, Mr Ho said: "Rachel would have been very touched and I wish she were here to see this." She had dreamt of becoming a banker, a lawyer or a dentist, he said.

She was good with her hands and liked to make rubber-band bracelets with loom bands, paint her nails and make clay models.

She was also very close to her parents and would often ask to sleep in their room. She had a habit of holding her father's hand, hugging and kissing him every night before she fell asleep.

Mr Ho, his wife and their oldest child, Ryan, 15, had spent the night before the wake picking out Rachel's favourite toys and clothes to put inside her coffin.

"We shared a lot of memories, photos and joy. That helped to ease the pain for us so we could sleep last night," he said.

The family has not broken the news to their younger son, Raphael, who is in Primary 1 at Tanjong Katong Primary School.

Mr Ho said it was comforting to the family that the whole nation was behind them.

"When it was announced that today would be a national day of remembrance, we were very touched," he said.

Good-humoured, passionate instructor
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 9 Jun 2015

CAMP instructor Muhammad Daanish Amran, 22, who was buried yesterday, is remembered as a caring and good-humoured friend and a passionate leader.

Yesterday morning, the body of Mr Daanish, who died in last Friday's quake, was sent to Masjid Ba'alwie in the Bukit Timah area for final rites, before the burial at the Pusara Abadi Muslim cemetery in Lim Chu Kang. It was attended by family members, friends and colleagues.

"He was really passionate about being a camp instructor and, as friends, we could see positive changes in him. He became more organised and serious in life," said his close friend Mohammed Jaffer Ashiddiqe Jamal, 22, who took leave from national service to attend the funeral.

Mr Daanish helped to guide Mr Jaffer's younger siblings when they were applying to be camp instructors as well, he said, adding: "He was really approachable."

The two friends were classmates at First Toa Payoh Secondary School, where Mr Daanish played guitar and football.

They last met a month ago. "We made plans to meet up for the upcoming Hari Raya visits as usual. My siblings and I never expected this to happen," he said.

The Toa Payoh school yesterday opened a tribute board for Mr Daanish. It is collecting messages at the general office from 9am to 6pm on weekdays until Monday.

"He always had a ready grin and a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. His presence alone brightened up the day for the class," wrote Mr Daanish's secondary school classmate Liu Yaling on his Facebook page.

Colleagues at Camp Challenge, where Mr Daanish was a freelance instructor, said he was always helpful.

The Nanyang Polytechnic graduate also worked at Universal Studios Singapore.

#YOUth must note this: You can always, always make a difference. What you give lives on in the lives you've touched,...
Posted by NYAA Council on Monday, October 19, 2015

* Singaporean adventure guide who died in Sabah quake honoured
The posthumous National Youth Achievement Award was presented by President Tony Tan Keng Yam to the father of Mr Muhammad Daanish Amran.
By Leong Wai Kit, Channel NewsAsia, 19 Oct 2015

Mr Muhammad Daanish Amran, a Singaporean outdoor adventure instructor who died in the Sabah earthquake in June was honoured on Monday (Oct 19) with a posthumous award.

Mr Muhammad Daanish, who had been a participant in the National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) programme was killed while shielding students from falling rocks on Mount Kinabalu.

The NYAA Award for Bravery was presented by President Tony Tan Keng Yam to Daanish's father, Mr Amran Mohd Salleh. This year, 171 young leaders received the Gold Award for serving the community.

A budding dancer and caring friend
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 9 Jun 2015

EMILIE Giovanna Ramu, 12, and Natasha Poon, 11, shared a close bond despite being in different levels in school.

So when Natasha found out her Primary 6 friend Emilie was among those killed on Mount Kinabalu, her heart broke.

"Emilie and I, we treated each other like sisters. When I'm sad, she would comfort me," said Natasha, a Primary 5 pupil at Tanjong Katong Primary School.

She added that whenever she was bullied, Emilie would buy her food and comfort her. "I still remember the times we spent laughing in the canteen. We would play games like truth or dare on the weekends," she said.

Other pupils said Emilie was caring and nice to everyone. "She was in my project group," said Primary 6 pupil Muhammad Shafiq Aiman, 12. "She was very nice. It's hard to imagine something like this could happen to her."

Emilie was also a budding ballet dancer who intended to perform at a ballet recital this weekend, said Shin Min Daily News.

Emilie's friends told The Straits Times she would never be forgotten. A tearful Natasha said: "You will forever be in my heart."

Girl was kind to family, friends, churchmates
By Gilaine Ng, The Straits Times, 9 Jun 2015

FOR two years, Karyl Matahom repeatedly asked her parents to allow her to go for her school's Mount Kinabalu expedition with her friends.

"She really, really wanted to join them on this hiking activity," said her father, Mr Carlito Matahom. "She'd been asking for two years already. That's why we allowed her to go on this trip. We wanted her to be happy."

The expedition was Karyl's first trip abroad without her family. The 12-year-old loved sports and was on her school's netball and floorball team at Tanjong Katong Primary School. She was also the vice-president of the student leaders council.

Karyl was close to her family and would often initiate family outings. "She was a kind girl, and very sweet, not only to her family but also to her friends and church members," said Mr Matahom at her wake at Singapore Casket in Lavender Street.

"When we first heard about the earthquake, we took it lightly because we didn't know the details of what happened. It was when we heard there were missing pupils and teachers that we started to panic. We felt a long agony during the period they were looking for her," he said.

Schoolmate Muhammad Shafiq Aiman, 12, who spoke to The Straits Times, said he remembered her kindness.

"Even though I wasn't that close to her, she went out of her way to help me search for a paper I thought I had lost in the classroom. When I realised I had actually handed the paper in, she didn't even get mad at me for wasting her time. She was really kind-hearted and caring," he said.

Bright, lively and cheerful girl who loved the outdoors
By Kok Xing Huiand Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 9 Jun 2015

MORE than 50 friends and relatives paid their last respects to Peony Wee Ying Ping last evening at her wake in Mountbatten.

Many of her friends left handwritten cards at the altar.

Peony was dressed in a red and white hanbok - a traditional Korean dress that her father, Mr Alson Wee Kee Liang, 51, said was her favourite.

The 12-year-old was the first of six pupils from Tanjong Katong Primary School confirmed dead in the Sabah earthquake.

Family and friends have described her as a bright, lively and cheerful girl. If her grades were not good, she would say the silver lining was that she had passed, said her brother Chester, 14.

The netball player was adventurous, loved the outdoors, and often helped out at her mother Lou Jin's traditional medicine clinic.

Peony also left behind her one-year-old sister, Felicia, whom she doted on and often took to the playground.

"She was very loving, very helpful," said Mr Wee, a machine operator. "I will miss hearing her cheerful voice around the house."

Peony will be cremated on Thursday.

Filial son, hard-working man
By Miranda Yeo, The Straits Times, 9 Jun 2015

TEACHER Terrence Loo was a filial son and hard-working man, said his neighbour Shirley Wee, who had known the 29-year-old since he was a child.

Ms Wee, a 60-year-old sales assistant, lived in the same Marine Parade block of flats as Mr Loo's family for more than two decades, before Mr Loo's family moved a few blocks away.

"I watched him grow up and I would spend time chatting with him and his mum at our void deck in the evening," said Ms Wee, who was at his wake yesterday.

She said Mr Loo was a gentle man who was very close to his mother. He had an older sister and a girlfriend, added Ms Wee, who often saw him walking his dog around the neighbourhood.

When she heard he was missing after the quake, she prayed he would return. "It is so heartbreaking because he was so young and the family's only son," she said.

Footballer remembered for his prowess on the pitch
By Rei Kurohi, The Straits Times, 9 Jun 2015

AMEER Ryyan Mohd Adeed Sanjay, 12, was a young and passionate football fan. His Facebook profile is plastered with pictures of his favourite football stars.

Not only did he support teams like FC Barcelona and Manchester United, but he was also a member of the Tanjong Katong Primary School football club, and had attended Fandi Ahmad's F-17 Academy for young players.

The local football icon said on Facebook: "When news broke that he was one of those who lost their lives, I was devastated. I had really hoped to witness Ameer Ryyan's rise in football.

"He had all the right ingredients, a good attitude, fitness, discipline, skills and parents who loved him dearly and really supported his dreams."

His coach, former national player Steven Tan, remembered Ameer for his caring nature and sense of humour, and compared him to S-League midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman in a post on Facebook. "He was a good kid and I will miss him dearly. Being a father myself, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for them. My heart goes out to his family," he added.

Yesterday, trainees at F-17 observed a minute of silence for their friend, who died last Friday in an earthquake in Sabah.

The tribute was led by Ronan Lim, a fellow pupil at F-17 who had returned safely from the same trip.

Among the friends who remembered him for his prowess on the field was Andre Aide Iskandar, 14, whose father is also a football coach for the Young Lions Under-23 team.

The Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) student had met Ameer when the latter was in Primary 1.

Impressed by his skill and positive attitude, Andre scouted him for the school football team. "I will always remember how well he played for the school and F-17. He always did his best to bring glory to the team," said Andre.

"I have lost a good friend who was like a little brother to me."

In his honour, F-17 printed white football jerseys with his name and number 7 on the back.

Hundreds arrived to pay their last respects to the young footballer as he was laid to rest in a Muslim cemetery yesterday. Many wore the white jersey, on the front of which was emblazoned: "AR7 forever in our hearts".

Being SingaporeanOn this National Day of Remembrance, it was brought home to me once again what it means to be...
Posted by Indranee Rajah on Monday, June 8, 2015

Adventurous netball player
By Rei Kurohi, The Straits Times, 9 Jun 2015

SONIA Jhala, 12, had been looking forward to her trip to Mount Kinabalu since she was in Primary 4.

The Omega Challenge Mount Kinabalu Expedition is organised by Tanjong Katong Primary School for graduating pupils who hold leadership positions in their co-curricular activities, and has been run annually for several years.

Sonia's sister, Ms Karishma Jhala, 18, told Shin Min Daily News that she was a netball player and an adventurous girl who worked hard to be selected for the trip.

Yesterday, about 50 friends and family members visited her parents to pay their respects.

Some were schoolmates accompanied by their parents. Two were Sonia's classmates who had been on the trip with her.

Her parents declined to speak to the media.

A private wake for family and close friends will be held today.

PE teacher a role model for his young charges
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 9 Jun 2015

AT SCHOOL, he is more like a friend than a teacher, and a role model for his pupils.

At home, he is a responsible father of three young children, with the youngest just a year old.

Mr Mohammad Ghazi Mohamed, 35, is one of two Singaporeans still missing since an earthquake hit Sabah last Friday.

He is a physical education teacher at Tanjong Katong Primary School and one of the teachers who were accompanying a group of pupils up Mount Kinabalu when the earthquake struck.

Several current and former pupils took to social media to share their fond memories of Mr Ghazi.

Posting a group photo taken during a previous trip to Mount Kinabalu, one former pupil wrote on Instagram: "I remember I was one of the slowest in our group, but you always stayed behind me and asked if everyone was fine."

Another former pupil wrote about how he was not particularly good in hockey, but was still invited by Mr Ghazi to join the school hockey team in 2010 and given opportunities to improve.

He wrote: "You never gave up (on me). There were always chances given to me to reach higher...

"We meet every year, soon it's time for our annual meet again. Come back soon and let's revive all those memories."

Mr Ghazi, an avid football fan, is also well known as the teacher who would spend time after school every Friday to play football with pupils.

Georgia Jackson, 11, who was taught by Mr Ghazi last year, told The Straits Times: "He had a great sense of humour. He often made all of us laugh."

He is known for teaching his pupils important life values.

Former pupil Anam Devid wrote on Mr Ghazi's Facebook page: "He showed us clearly about teamwork, perseverance and respect... He did not make us respect him just because he is our teacher. He earned our respect."

Like his late father, Mr Ghazi is passionate about teaching and previously taught at ITE College East, reported Chinese evening paper Lianhe Wanbao.

His wife is a teacher at East View Secondary School.

His cousin told Lianhe Wanbao that Mr Ghazi's mother is prepared for the worst and simply hopes that Mr Ghazi will be found in one piece.

The cousin also said Mr Ghazi is a filial son, a thoughtful husband and a responsible father.

Meanwhile, the authorities have asked for blood samples from his mother, younger brother and younger sister.

The cousin believes the blood samples will be used for DNA testing to help identify Mr Ghazi.

Many pupils and staff are hopeful that he will return safely and many remember one of his quotes in the school's yearbook: "Leave no one behind. Never turn a blind eye."

One former pupil wrote on Instagram: "Where are you Mr G?... We're still hoping for your safe return. Leave no man behind and we're all waiting for you to come back safely.

"You will, right?"

Missing boy's elder sister praying for a miracle
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 9 Jun 2015

TWO years ago, Navdeep Singh Jaryal Raj Kumar's father died and now the 13-year-old is one of the two Singaporeans still missing after the earthquake in Sabah.

His elder sister posted on Twitter last Saturday to say that she is praying for a miracle and wondered how their mother would cope if the worst-case scenario comes true.

That day, Navdeep's mother also uploaded a new profile picture of herself and her son, both dressed in Indian traditional costumes. She also changed her cover photo on Facebook, to one of her son eating a snack.

Several friends and relatives posted messages on her Facebook page, encouraging her to "stay strong" and "have faith". Many added that they were praying for him and his family.

Her friends described Navdeep as being cute and handsome.

Navdeep's uncle told Chinese evening paper Lianhe Wanbao that the boy's mother and sister had flown to Sabah and were waiting there for news.

The whole family is upset, he added.

Meanwhile, friends continued to encourage Navdeep's sister.

One of them wrote on Twitter: "Just close your eyes and think of every sweetest moment you both had... And I believe, he doesn't want to see you in this manner."

Guide died taking care of Singapore pupils
28-year-old stayed behind to protect those under his watch, says cousin
The Straits Times, 9 Jun 2015

RANAU - Five minutes after the quake hit, 28-year-old Valerian Joannes, a guide of the group from Tanjong Katong Primary School, called his cousin to say he was fine.

Mr Felix Fenien said Mr Valerian spoke frantically over the walkie-talkie. But that was the last time anyone heard from him.

"Valerian could have gotten out of harm's way, but he wanted to make sure that nobody got hurt under his watch," Mr Felix told the New Straits Times.

"His last words were: 'I'm safe here but I need to take care of the children.' Nobody heard from him until the search team told us they found him dead."

Mr Valerian's father said he was proud of his son. "My son is dead, I accept it... I am happy that he died a hero," Mr Joannes Lubak tearfully told The Star newspaper on Sunday. He said other guides told him that his son, the fourth of 10 siblings, was on the rope with Singapore students.

"I was told that Valerian grabbed the harness of the students and tried to shield them from the falling rocks, but the rope snapped," he said.

All of them were believed to have fallen together.

Mr Valerian's fiancee Jessica Sikta, 25, said she is still trying to come to terms with his sudden death.

She told The Malaysian Insider news website that during their last video call on Thursday night, they discussed plans for their wedding, which had been scheduled for November.

Another Malaysian guide has died from injuries sustained during the earthquake.

The death of Mr Joseph Selungin, 33, was announced by his employer, tour company Amazing Borneo, yesterday. He had worked for the company for almost two months.

It said that Mr Selungin was found under a boulder, in the act of protecting two guests from the landslide of rocks triggered by the quake.

His two guests also died, according to Amazing Borneo.

In its statement on Facebook, the company expressed condolences to Mr Selungin's family, including his wife, their four-year-old son and two-year-old daughter. They were to celebrate their wedding anniversary on June 12.

Yesterday, the company started a campaign to raise funds for his family, just as it did for another of its guides, Mr Robbi Sapinggi, 30, who was also hailed for his heroism during the quake.

During Mr Robbi's wake on Sunday, one of his brothers spoke about finding his body. Mr Binker Sapinggi told The Star: "When we were picking up his body, I lost all my strength. I asked the three guides who were with me to carry his body down while I led the way."

Asked if the tragedy has dampened his spirits to continue in the profession, Mr Binker - a mountain guide for more than four years - said he was uncertain. "I'm not sure whether I want to continue guiding. I am not confident enough," he said.

But his brother Henry, the eldest of the 10 Sapinggi siblings and a porter and mountain guide since 1996, said he would continue guiding in memory of his deceased brother.

"Robbi wouldn't want me to give up this job. Four out of five boys in my family... are mountain guides. So was our father Sapinggi Lajon," he said.

Meanwhile, a photograph of another guide, Mr Mhd Rizuan Kauhinin, carrying an injured child on his back has gone viral on social media.

On being called a hero, the 25-year-old told The Star: "I really don't know what to feel... I'm not a famous person. What I did was out of sincerity, not to get fame... All that mattered was to bring the boy to safety."

Mr Rizuan said he and another guide had found the boy writhing in pain.

He recalled: "The boy couldn't move because he had injured his back. We gave him something to eat. I had water with me, so I also shared some with him.

"We then lifted him up from the ground and I carried him on my back for the descent."

Leader kept grief in check to help others
By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 9 Jun 2015

BOULDERS as large as trucks plummeted down the rock face of the mountain, breaking into smaller pieces with a roar. Nearby, some wooden huts collapsed and rolled down the slope.

This was the scene that greeted six Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) pupils last Friday morning when a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck near Mount Kinabalu.

That morning, the six children made the decision to stay behind to rest at Pendant Hut, a mountain lodge where other pupils and teachers in their group had slept the night before. They were tired and wanted to rest before heading for the summit the next day.

The other 23 pupils went ahead and set off for the Via Ferrata route 300m away.

At 7.15am, the walls of the hut shook when the quake struck.

Fear gripped 29-year-old Mohamad Amin, the leader who was in charge of the six pupils. He was a staff member with outdoor learning firm Camp Challenge, which ran the expedition.

He quickly snapped out of shock and rushed the children to the nearest place of safety, a helipad that had the open space needed for emergencies.

Along the way, Mr Amin tried to establish contact with the pupils and teachers who were on the mountain with a walkie-talkie.

The group intended to wait for the others at the helipad. However, the ground beneath them shook repeatedly as the aftershocks hit.

So they made their way down to a second helipad where they were joined by other children from TKPS who had suffered broken arms, and head and shoulder injuries.

By then, it was noon and some mountain guides had called for a helicopter. It came two hours later but the fog prevented it from landing.

Some children slowly made their way down while those who were severely injured were carried down the mountain on stretchers.

Mr Amin recalled a boy, Wafeeq, 12, who had hurt his head but delayed getting on a stretcher.

Instead, he asked Mr Amin: "How many of my friends are dead?"

Mr Amin tried to reassure him while helping to bandage the wounds of others.

By then, the first few search and rescue teams were already making their way up.

When Mr Amin reached the foot of the mountain, he was seized by more despair.

He recognised the body of a 12-year-old being brought down and identified her as Peony Wee Ying Ping. He followed her in a separate van to Hospital Ranau and arranged for her to be taken to the main town.

Then he returned to the mountain to make arrangements for other injured pupils, such as Prajesh Dhimant Patel, to be treated at Hospital Queen Elizabeth.

"I went without sleep for 32 hours, fuelled by the fact that 29 pupils and 10 adults went up with me, so they must come down with me," said Mr Amin.

But it was not to be.

Mr Amin kept his grief in check by assisting officials and parents on the ground before flying back to Singapore yesterday to support the parents of his colleague, Mr Muhammad Daanish Amran, who died in the quake. Mr Daanish was buried yesterday.

"The nightmare continues but I will still be running overseas camps because I believe they build character," he said.

Ex-pupils, parents speak up for school's programme
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 9 Jun 2015

THE climb up Mount Kinabalu was tiring and challenging - but also taught them valuable life lessons, said former Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) pupils who have gone on school trips to the famous peak in Sabah.

One of them, Deanna Lim, 13, who went there last year, said the expedition made her step out of her comfort zone.

Deanna, now a first-year Integrated Programme student at Temasek Junior College, said "it teaches you a lot about perseverance and leadership".

Former TKPS pupils like her, as well as their parents, have come forward to defend the school's Mount Kinabalu programme after some netizens criticised the school and the Ministry of Education (MOE) for allowing 12-year-olds to go on a mountain-climbing expedition.

Deanna's brother, Ronan, 12, was one of the 29 pupils who went on the school's Mount Kinabalu expedition this year.

He was one of the 22 children who survived last Friday's earthquake in Sabah, but six pupils, a teacher and a camp instructor did not. One pupil and a teacher remain missing.

Housewife Janice Lim, the mother of Deanna and Ronan, said the school has her full support for the programme. "It teaches the kids the values of teamwork and perseverance," said Mrs Lim, who is in her 40s.

"You learn more from the experience of doing a difficult task than just reading about it."

Thirteen-year-old Pung Feng Kai, who was on the same trip as Deanna last year, said: "The trip taught me that it isn't just about the ending, but also the journey."

The current Raffles Institution student said he became closer to his friends through the trip, and made several new ones too.

"After climbing Mount Kinabalu, it made me realise that I was able to overcome challenges... I never thought I would be able to climb that mountain," he said. "You just have to push on and not give up."

Housewife Maggie Chia, 44, whose daughter made the climb with TKPS last year, said: "It's easy to be a master of hindsight. When things happen, people point fingers. But when things are well, people say the programme is great."

She added: "We know from the pupils that the teachers acted as human shields. How can you criticise a school with so much emphasis on values?"

Parents whose children are not from the school also voiced support for its Mount Kinabalu programme.

Lecturer Dennis Yeo, 47, who has two daughters aged eight and 13, said: "Singapore is small, and schools may want to give students a different learning experience and get them to rough it out, which is something they don't get to do often here."

Dr Yeo, a former vice-principal at a junior college, noted that the Mount Kinabalu trekking route taken by the TKPS pupils was deemed to be suitable for children aged 10 and above by MOE.

"You can never tell when a disaster like this will happen. The group was unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time," he added.

In this time of grief, let us be united in prayers and thoughts for the victims, their families and friends. The...
Posted by Ministry of Education, Singapore on Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sabah quake: Remains of missing duo identified
Identities of pupil, teacher confirmed through fingerprints and belongings
By Pearl Lee, Melissa Lin, Calvin Yang and Rei Kurohi, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2015

IT WAS through their fingerprints and personal belongings that the Malaysian authorities confirmed the remains they found belonged to the climbers missing since last Friday's Sabah quake.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) acknowledged the deaths of pupil Navdeep Singh Jaryal Raj Kumar and teacher Mohammad Ghazi Mohamed, from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS), yesterday and said their remains would be returned to Singapore once forensic tests are completed.

The duo are the last two victims to be accounted for. It raised fatalities from the 6.0-magnitude earthquake to 18, 10 of whom were on a Mount Kinabalu expedition with TKPS.

They are teachers, Mr Terrence Loo, 29, and Mr Ghazi, 35; Primary 6 pupils Rachel Ho Yann Shiuan, Peony Wee Ying Ping, Ameer Ryyan Mohd Adeed Sanjay, Emilie Giovanna Ramu, Matahom Karyl Mitzi Higuit, Sonia Jhala, all 12; Navdeep, 13; and adventure guide Muhammad Daanish Amran, 22.

The Malaysian authorities said yesterday they would end their search and rescue operations.

We know now that Navdeep and Ghazi are at peace. I talked with their families yesterday, and it was so clear that Ghazi...
Posted by Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday, June 9, 2015

But families and friends are still struggling to come to terms with the deaths. At Sonia's funeral yesterday, her father Jaidipsinh Jhala, 48, said: "We have our moments, when we remember something about her and we break down, but it is all part of the grieving process."

He said Sonia, who played netball and water-skied, had been looking forward to climbing Mount Kinabalu since she was 10 and had worked hard to be chosen. She had died doing what she wanted, he said.

Up until yesterday, many still held out hope that Navdeep and Mr Ghazi would come home safe.

Mr Abdul Nasir, 49, team manager of MOE's football team on which Mr Ghazi played, said he was at TKPS on Tuesday but did not leave any tributes. "We were still hoping for good news."

Yesterday, he was back at the schoolwith about 30 teammates. "When we heard the news this morning, we decided to come again."

TKPS pupil Ammar Muhammad Ahmad Faisal, 12, said yesterday he got to know Navdeep at the start of the year. "We were in different classes but we played floorball and football together during recess time. Navdeep was competitive, but in a good way."

Navdeep's family declined to speak to the media yesterday, asking for time and space to grieve.

But The Straits Times understands that his aunt and uncle, who run a food business, closed shop yesterday as they were distraught. Prayers will be held for him tonight and tomorrow.

Mr Ghazi, an avid sportsman who was the subject head for co-curricular activities and physical education at TKPS, was well-loved by many.

A fellow teacher and friend, Mr Eugene Ng, wrote on Facebook: "I remember your smile and your graciousness. I never could match your stamina and skill on the field, but we played as equals because you treated me as one.

"Fare thee well, brother. Nil Sine Labore," he added, using a Latin phrase which means 'nothing without labour', the motto of Victoria School, which they went to as teenagers.

Housewife Regina Sheth, 38, a parent volunteer with TKPS who has two sons, said, as she pointed to the outdoor basketball court: "He always told the kids to believe in themselves. It's going to be impossible to come here and not see him standing there any more."

Mr Ghazi leaves behind his wife, a teacher at East View Secondary, and three young children.

At Tanjong Katong Primary School's tribute site earlier.If you’d like to express your condolences, the tribute site is open to 9pm tonight and tomorrow. #SabahQuake
Posted by Ministry of Education, Singapore on Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Enhance safety, not assign blame

IT IS rather puzzling to read the many responses on social media and in the papers calling for a review of tough, character-building overseas trips.

The arguments offered are manifold.

Some claim it unnecessary to fly long distances to relatively far-flung regions, or even leave Singapore to build character, or that primary school pupils are not safety-conscious enough and, thus, too young for such trips.

Others say school teachers are themselves not specially trained to operate in challenging locales, and expedition planners can never fully assess nor manage the many hazards that may strike.

These arguments, though, ignore the fact that the tragic events on Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, are the result of a natural disaster - quite rare for the region and totally unpredictable - rather than human error.

It was not a case of a lack of preparedness by the school, the teachers on-site not having the right mountaineering experience or showing a disregard for safety, or a lack of maturity or tenacity on the part of the pupils.

In fact, all the teachers, guides and pupils themselves performed heroically.

What happened was of a comparable degree of risk to that many Singaporean families face when they travel abroad on their annual holidays.

If any parent is unwilling to accept that level of risk, it is entirely within their right to refuse consent for their children's participation.

So, is there a need for these kinds of trips? Should parents and schools put children in situations where there is even a slight potential of bodily harm?

As a parent of young children myself, I say "yes".

The effort that schools commit towards stretching our students mentally and physically, and providing exposure to diverse experiences, with the view towards expanding students' world view and strengthening their character, is one of the most important goals of education.

Let us not cheapen the important work done by the teachers at Tanjong Katong Primary School, and in many other schools, by assigning blame to the blameless.

By all means, redouble efforts to enhance safety and risk assessment protocols, but we should not deprive other young children of such transformative learning opportunities in a knee-jerk reaction.

Steffen Toh Hai Chew Britain
ST Forum, 10 Jun 2015

Minister reflects on what it means to be a kid, a parent
S'poreans have shown resolve, strength and compassion amid tragedy, he says
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 13 Jun 2015

MR HENG Swee Keat very nearly did not make it to the graduation ceremony at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) yesterday.

The Education Minister had accepted the invitation to speak months before. But "last Friday morning, an earthquake of 6.0 magnitude struck near Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, something no one has ever seen before," he told graduands, parents and guests.

He thought he would have to miss the ceremony, with the grim tasks that had to follow, to search for the missing, bring home the dead as well as the surviving, and take care of families here.

He changed his mind on Thursday. "The disaster last Friday, and all the resolve, strength and compassion I've seen and heard from Singaporeans in the last week, have stirred up many thoughts in me," said Mr Heng.

He also wanted to share the "special moment" to celebrate students' achievements, he said, as he added wryly: "I assure you, I won't say anything to depress you."

He went on: "All I want to do is to remind you that you are loved, that we believe in you, and that we will give you our all to help you achieve your dreams.

"And, I hope that you will share with us too your hopes and your wishes, so that I, my officers, our teachers, we can all draw more strength and hope from you to carry on the work that we must do at MOE."

The tragedy claimed the lives of 10 from Singapore - seven pupils and two teachers from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS), and the adventure guide who accompanied them on the trip to Mount Kinabalu.

Mr Heng paid tribute to the staff of the Ministry of Education and TKPS, who showed steely determination to tackle the challenges, and do all possible to bring teachers and pupils home safe.

But the tragedy had also led him to reflect on what it meant to be a child and a parent, and how that was to be part of something bigger than themselves.

As a child, said Mr Heng, "it means that someone cares for you, and wants the very best for you.". Though parents, grandparents, and the wider family act in different ways, it comes from a place of love, from what they think is best for a child.

Children, he said, can be the best they can by learning all they can, from everyone around them.

"Learn not just because jobs are changing, not just because the world is growing more competitive," said Mr Heng. "Do it because your parents and your teachers have so much hope for and in you."

And having received care, children can give back by offering support, in word and gesture, to others who need it.

As to what it meant to be a parent, he said: "To be a parent is to be prepared to put our child's happiness before our own. It is to believe in our children - not only that you will be great, but that you can be better than us. Better in many ways - better life, better skills, grow up a better person, a better friend, a better parent, with lots of heart."

Knowing how parents, families and teachers see them, he said, children can give thanks, by fulfilling their parents' belief in them.

The events of the last week also showed that all of us are a part of something much bigger than us, said Mr Heng.

"At one level, we are all part of something bigger than us, something that is unpredictable and uncontrollable, a world ruled by volatile forces of nature that change without warning," he said.

But we are also part of something bigger at another, more hopeful level.

"And this thing is our home, our society, our country - made up of many individual children, parents, students, teachers, family members, all coming together as one," he added.

"We make sure no one walks alone. We act with love and heroism. We act to protect... Rocks may fall, but our human spirit will never falter," Mr Heng said.



It means that someone cares for you, and wants the very best for you.


To be a parent is to be prepared to put our child's happiness before our own. It is to believe in our children - not only that you will be great, but that you can be better than us. Better in many ways - better life, better skills, grow up a better person, a better friend, a better parent, with lots of heart.


Our home, our society, our country - made up of many individual children, parents, students, teachers, family members, all coming together as one... We make sure no one walks alone. We act with love and heroism. We act to protect... Rocks may fall, but our human spirit will never falter.

Sabah quake survivors meet guides at tearful reunion
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 18 Jun 2015

SURVIVORS of the Sabah earthquake shared stories of their ordeal and remembered lost friends yesterday at a tearful reunion at Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS).

Trainer Hillary Augustinus, 34, from Malaysian mountaineering company Mountain Torq, and colleagues James Maikol, 29, and Hajiris Sulomin, 40, spent over an hour meeting the surviving TKPS pupils and parents who lost loved ones. Seven TKPS pupils and two teachers died, along with a Singaporean adventure guide accompanying them up Mount Kinabalu on June 5.

Mr Augustinus, who was tasked with taking photos for his employer's Facebook page, recalled how pupils in his group were taking selfies and chatting happily moments before the 6.0-magnitude earthquake shook Mount Kinabalu at 7.15am.

He immediately directed pupils to lean against the rock face and shield their heads with their hands as rocks - some the size of houses - rained down. "It was like somebody was hitting my head with a baseball bat," said Mr Augustinus, who sustained injuries to his back and right knee as he led the group to safety.

The Malaysian's friends and fellow Mountain Torq trainers Valerian Joannes, 27, and Ricky Masirin, 28, who were leading other TKPS pupils, died in the tragedy. They had been making their way up the gentler Via Ferrata route.

Mountain Torq trainers and Tanjong Katong Primary School students had a heartwarming reunion today. They were joined by...
Posted by Ministry of Education, Singapore on Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Yesterday afternoon, the three surviving Malaysian trainers were accompanied by Mr Joannes' and Mr Masirin's family members as they viewed condolence notes penned by the public.

Mr Joannes' fiancee, nurse Jessica Sikta, 25, said she is still in the process of letting go.

The couple had been due to marry in November. "If he were here today, he would never forgive himself for failing to save the lives of your children," she said at the reunion. "I knew he tried, and he was dedicated to his job."

About 70 pupils, teachers and parents observed a minute's silence at the start of the event. Also present were Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.

TKPS teacher Mohamed Faizal Abdul Salam, who was on the trip, praised the trainers for their professionalism. Mr Faizal, who lost colleagues Terrence Loo and Mohammad Ghazi Mohamed, said: "The trainers did it despite their injuries and the danger of further rockfalls. They did it to the best of their ability."

On Tuesday, 25-year-old mountain guide Mohd Rizuan Kauhinin met the Singaporean boy he rescued after the quake.

A photo of him carrying injured TKPS pupil El Wafeeq El Jauzy, 12, on his back went viral on social media last week but Mr Rizuan told The Straits Times: "I am not a hero."

He added that many other guides and aid teams also contributed to rescue efforts.

Mr Rizuan arrived in Singapore on Monday night with two other guides, Mr Simon Gohinmin and Mr Mazlee Liong. The trio has taken turns carrying Wafeeq to safety.

In a speech at TKPS yesterday, Mr Heng said his ministry is looking at facilitating public donations for the Sabahan trainers and guides. "We are grateful to these good people who did what they could in a time of crisis," he said. "The healing process will take time. As we heal, let us remember our loved ones who are still with us, and let us help one another."

前线追踪, Frontline - Mt Kinabalu accident HD8... by 154thmedia


Sabah Earthquake Fund has been set up to help the families of Singaporean victims, as well as trainers and guides...
Posted by Ministry of Education, Singapore on Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Today, I took Parliament through the events of the day when an unpredicted earthquake in Sabah took the lives of fellow...
Posted by Heng Swee Keat on Monday, July 13, 2015

Sabah quake: Students on Mount Kinabalu expedition presented 'Braveheart' award by school
Mt Kinabalu excluded from TKPS' leadership activities
School will continue annual programme in some other form that retains its spirit: Principal
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 20 Nov 2015

Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) pupils will not be climbing Mount Kinabalu for their annual leadership programme next year, even though the programme will continue, said the school's principal yesterday.

For the past seven years, the school - to develop the leadership qualities of selected Primary 6 pupils - had organised annual expeditions to scale the mountain in Sabah. But this year's group encountered an earthquake while on the mountain, resulting in 10 fatalities.

In a statement yesterday, TKPS principal Caroline Wu described the programme, the Omega Challenge, as a "key leadership training programme" where student and co-curricular activity (CCA) leaders learn about leadership, courage, resilience and teamwork.

"Hence, we will continue with the Omega Challenge for 2016 for our student and CCA leaders, except that it would not be in the format of climbing Mount Kinabalu, but conducted in a way which retains the true spirit of the programme," she said. She did not say what the group would do next year.

This year's Omega Challenge saw 29 TKPS pupils going to Mount Kinabalu. A 6.0-magnitude quake struck the mountain and killed seven pupils and two teachers from the school, as well as a Singaporean guide.

Yesterday, 21 pupils who survived the disaster were presented the TKP Braveheart Award to recognise their courage, resilience and teamwork in the face of adversity. One pupil was absent. The seven pupils who died received the award posthumously. A representative collected it on their behalf.

Mrs Wu said the pupils "conducted themselves commendably, displayed their individual strengths and determination, and teamwork amongst themselves and their teachers".

One survivor who received an award yesterday was Primary 6 pupil Prajesh Dhimant Patel, 12, who suffered the most serious injuries among his schoolmates.

When he was brought back to Singapore from Sabah, he could not talk, walk or even sit up. He spent more than a month in KK Women's and Children's Hospital and went through a series of treatments, including occupational therapy and speech therapy, before being discharged in mid-July.

The Straits Times reported in September that several pupils and parents, including those whose children died in the quake, hope to scale Mount Kinabalu on the anniversary of the disaster on June 5 next year to achieve closure.

But Prajesh is not sure if he is up for it. "I'm not so sure yet... I'm a bit scared," he said. "I'm afraid, what if the same thing happens again?"

His mother, Mrs Kashmira Patel, 43, a pharmacist, said he was found unconscious and could not remember the quake. "The last few months after the earthquake, he had to go through quite a bit to get back to what he was, physically, mentally and emotionally," she added..

That, coupled with the PSLE, which ended last month, made for a difficult task, she said. "But he persevered and managed to do it."

Jayden Francis, 12, who was also on the trip, is afraid but also determined to make the trip to Mount Kinabalu next June. "I (am) scared that (the quake) might happen again and we might lose a few other people... But I want to pay my respects to my friends."

Near-death experience makes pupil appreciate life more
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 20 Nov 2015

When Tanjong Katong Primary School pupil Leong Wan Ting, 12, returned to school after the June holidays this year, she often found herself unable to focus.

She was part of a group of 29 pupils who were at Mount Kinabalu in Sabah in the first week of June when an earthquake struck, killing seven pupils, two school teachers and an adventure camp guide.

Some of the victims were her classmates. She was close to them and had often chatted with them.

"I couldn't concentrate when I saw their empty seats in class. It felt strange. Sometimes I would not hear what the teacher was saying because I was thinking of them," said Wan Ting.

But she got through the rest of the school year and the Primary School Leaving Examination with the help of her teachers, who gave her extra coaching.

Talking to friends helped her to cope with her grief, she said. "We would talk about our friends (who had died), no matter if they were happy or sad memories. Sometimes we would cry together, but we would be okay after that."

The near-death experience has made her appreciate life more. "My friends... were taken away before they could fulfil their dreams. I'm glad that I survived," she said.

Like her fellow survivors, she hopes to go back to scale Mount Kinabalu one day for her friends.

"My friends did not manage to complete the climb. I want to do it for them," she said.

* 2015 Sabah quake: Victims remembered a year on *

Team makes summit push to honour quake victims
Five Singaporeans reach peak in memory of those who died in Mt Kinabalu disaster
By Seow Bei Yi, In Kota Kinabalu, The Straits Times, 7 Jun 2016

With every step that she took towards the summit of Mount Kinabalu, Ms Mandeep Tamana pictured in her mind the seven Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) pupils who died in a quake on the mountain last year.

The 44-year-old was one of five Singaporeans who reached the summit yesterday - an achievement that eluded the Primary 6 pupils on last year's trip because of the disaster which killed 18 people in all, including 10 Singaporeans.

Her son Jayden Francis, a former TKPS pupil, survived the Sabah quake, and she decided to join a team that ascended the mountain in memory of the victims.

"It was a gruelling climb," said Ms Tamana, who started on the road to the summit from Laban Rata - a pit stop where climbers can rest - at about 2.30am. "But just as we were turning around to come back down, we saw this beautiful rainbow. It was very emotional."

The other four Singaporeans who scaled the summit in time for the sunrise were Dillen Jhala, 16, who lost his sister Sonia in the earthquake, his cousin Karan, 20, Mr Tonny Phuay, 47, and Mr Phuay's 12-year-old daughter Chantal, a former TKPS pupil who also survived the quake.

"I really feel like I've achieved something in life," said Chantal. "It's something that I really wanted."

"Someone said that if I were to go back to Mount Kinabalu again, I would dig my own grave. But I proved them wrong," she added with a wry smile.

"I'm really proud of Chantal," said Mr Phuay. "Hopefully, this will be a closure and will make her stronger, more positive, when facing challenges in the future."

Several people had to turn back during yesterday's ascent - quake survivor Elliot Quok, 12, his father John, 45, and Dillen's father Jaidipsinh, 49.

Elliot threw up during the climb and his father stopped the hike, said his mother, Ms Mae Molina, 43. She said: "(Elliot) told me, 'If I could have vomited and walked, I would have gone on.'"

Mr Jaidipsinh Jhala started feeling unwell 550m into the journey, with more than 2km to go. He told his guide that he would turn back.

"He told me - the spot that you said you wanted to turn back, this is where the kids' bodies were found," said Mr Jhala. So there he stayed, at 3.45am, to say a prayer with no one around him but the stars above.

What this trip has achieved is to "prove to everyone that life goes on", added the safety training programmes company director, who hopes schools will allow students to go on such expeditions again.

Twenty Sabahans, including immediate family members of the two late Mountain Torq trainers who had been guiding the pupils on the Via Ferrata trail, reached the summit on the same morning.

On the final ascent, Ms Jessica Veronica Sikta, 26, carried a picture of her fiance Valerian Joannes, one of the trainers who died.

Speaking to The Straits Times after she descended the mountain, Ms Sikta said she "brought him inside my heart". "My fiance finished his journey bravely, so I needed to finish this journey with strength."

Said Ms Molina after trekking down the mountain: "Every year, I will still be thinking of them, feeling sad, tearing up, still crying. Probably every year, on June 5, we will feel it. I'll always think of the kids. Always."

The Singaporeans will return home from Sabah today.

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