In Malaysia, Mount Kinabalu is considered a sacred place. So when a group of tourists decided to strip and take photos of themselves on top of the mountain and an earthquake hit the area shortly afterwards, it didn’t take long for people to connect the two incidents.
A Malaysian minister has blamed the tourists for “disrespecting the mountain” and killing at least 18 people.
The earthquake, which measured 5.9 on the Richter scale, caused landslides; eighteen climbers have been confirmed dead so far. The earthquake hit the area a week after the foreigners (two Canadians, two Dutch, and one German) stripped and took photographs on the mountain.
The tourists are now barred from leaving the country, while a local tribal group will hold a ceremony to appease the spirits of Mount Kinabalu.
Deputy Chief Minister of Sabah, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, said, “Whether other people believe this or not, it’s what we Sabahans believe. When the earthquake happened, it’s like a confirmation of our beliefs. There is almost certainly a connection. We have to take this as a reminder that local beliefs and customs are not to be disrespected.”
One tourist, Emil Kaminski, received an internet backlash when he wrote online “Some deranged prick has linked earthquakes and mountaintop nudity.”
Meanwhile, to appease the mountain, Sabah’s tribal priest wants the tourists to be fined 10 head of buffalo. “The tourists who angered the guardian of the mountain should pay for their mistakes by giving sogit. This fine, called sogit in the native tongue, should be in the form of 10 male or female buffaloes,” said the chief, Tindarama Aman.
According to the local beliefs, Mount Kinabalu is the resting place for spirits of the dead before they move on to heaven or hell.