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Pupils Resting When Quake Struck

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SINGAPORE: Primary Six pupil Ronan Lim was sleeping in a hut on Mount Kinabalu when he was awoken by tremors at about 7.15am last Friday.

The 12-year-old had been resting in the hut with his schoolmates from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) because he was unwell.

“I asked my friends what had happened,” he said. “Then we ran down.”

He fell and sprained his ankle in the rush and a Malaysian guide carried him the rest of the way.

Ronan was one of 19 TKPS pupils who arrived home from Kota Kinabalu Saturday afternoon, to the relief of relatives and friends.

Two other pupils and a teacher, who require more medical attention in Kota Kinabalu, returned yesterday.

Some of the pupils arrived at Changi Airport’s Terminal 2 as early as an hour ahead of the 3.05pm scheduled arrival on Saturday.

Their parents were ushered into a holding room while other relatives and well-wishers – including former pupils and members of the school’s Parent Support Group – waited outside.

The mood was sombre during the wait, even among those not directly related to the children. Many were teary-eyed.

At around 4pm, the children were reunited with their parents behind closed doors and then quickly ushered out of the room in small groups.

Many were wrapped in blankets and several were sobbing. One boy was in a wheelchair, with his right leg in a cast. Most of the families declined to speak to the media.

Ronan’s father, heart surgeon Dr Lim Chong Hee said his son, who sometimes suffered from chest pains at high altitude, had been resting in the sick bay when the quake occurred.

He first heard of the quake from Ronan. “Somebody gave him a phone, and the first thing he did was to call,” said Dr Lim.

A 46-year-old man who declined to be named said his nephew was at a rest stop at about 3,350m up the mountain when the quake struck.

“He ran out. However, not everyone did,” he said. “Some of his schoolmates were too tired and felt unwell.”

The boy was eventually led to the foot of the mountain safely and treated at Gleneagles Hospital in Kota Kinabalu.

He was one of those who arrived home on Saturday, but his uncle declined to give the boy’s name. “He had a traumatic experience and saw things a 12-year-old should not have to see,” he said.

Teacher Hafiz Ahman, 43, said his niece Amal Ashley Lim, 12, had been in constant contact with their family since the quake.

“I think she’s quite shaken because she and another girl were pushed under an overhang but they saw other pupils falling down,” he said.

“A teacher told them to stay there and went out to look for the others. He never came back.” — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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