Malaysia blames quake on naked selfie tourists, some of whom now can't go home

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In Malaysia, a government official blamed a recent earthquake that jolted Mount Kinabalu on a group of European and North American tourists who outraged locals by snapping nude photos at the mountain summit, and posting them online.

Two member of that tourist group, Lindsey and Danielle Petersen of Saskatchewan, have been identified in local media and have been told by Malaysian government officials that they are prohibited from leaving the country.

A spokesperson for the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs says they are aware of reports the two Canadian siblings have been barred from departing Malaysia at this time. He told The Star the Canadian High Commission in Malaysia‎ will provide consular services as needed.

Mount Kinabalu is the country’s highest mountain, and considered a sacred site by indigenous people who believe the Borneo landmark is where spirits reside after people die. The tourists' naked selfies angered the ancestral spirits of Borneo, said a Malaysian official.

A viral image making the rounds in Malaysia shows the Western tourists stripping down for selfies at a sacred mountain in Borneo.


Viral images making the rounds in Malaysia show Western tourists stripping down for selfies at a sacred mountain in Borneo.

From The Star:

According to Malaysian police reports, Lindsey Petersen, 23, and Danielle Petersen, 22, are two of five tourists who have been identified as disrespecting the mountain, considered a sacred place in the indigenous culture of Sabah.

According to a Malaysian news outlet, rescuers recovered the bodies of 19 climbers from the 4,095-metre peak after it was struck, six days after the errant tourists’ visit, by a magnitude 5.9 quake that sent rocks and boulders raining down on trekking routes, trapping dozens of climbers. Nationalities of those killed have not yet been released.

Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan, of the eastern Sabah state, blamed the earthquake on the group that included the Canadians because they “showed disrespect to the sacred mountain” by stripping down to pose naked on the morning of May 30, at the 8 km mark of the two-day trek up Mount Kinabalu, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Ten tourists undressed and took photos, which was reported by their protesting guide, according to police. Only five have been identified by name so far.

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