His Majesty orders rescue mission to Tawau
Azlan Othman

FOLLOWING the incident at Sungai Balung in Tawau, Sabah where two Universiti Brunei Darussalam students went missing during a study tour on Friday, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, ordered a group rescue mission to bring back the students and UBD lecturers using Royal Brunei Airlines and Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) aircraft.

The group was led by the Permanent Secretary (Higher Education) at the Ministry of Education and Vice Chancellor of UBD Dato Paduka Dr Awg Hj Zulkarnain bin Hj Hanafi and Permanent Secretary (Law and Welfare) at the Prime Ministerís Office, Awg Hj Yahya bin Hj Idris and included officers from RBAF, Royal Brunei Police Force, Fire and Rescue Department and the Ministry of Health.

This was disclosed by the Minister of Education, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awg Abu Bakar bin Hj Apong to the local media yesterday.

The RB flight departed at 10.15am yesterday and the students and lecturers arrived safely at around 2pm on the same day.

Twenty-nine second year students of UBD who are pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Geology and two lecturers from the Science Faculty were in Sabah from February 22 to March 3.

Their study visit included trips to Labuan, Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Lahad Datu and Tawau to analyse rocks and sedimentology as part of their studies in Geology Mapping.

At around 4pm on Friday, while doing rocks study at Sg Balung, Tawau located about 500 metres from Sg Balung Bridge, several students moved to the middle of the river where the water level suddenly rose drastically and quickly from upriver.

Four students were taken by the river current while other students including two UBD lecturers, two lecturers from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and a UMS technician managed to return to the riverbank.

The survivors were then looked after by medical officers in Tawau.

Sabah police and fire personnel were dispatched immediately and conducted search and rescue operation for the two missing students.

Bruneiís Consulate General in Sabah arrived at the scene and family members were also contacted on the same day. The Consulate General monitored search and rescue efforts and the welfare of the students and lecturers.

The Minister of Education expressed his sadness over the incident but was grateful that the Sabah authorities were quick in responding to the tragedy.

UBD had quickly set up an operation room which acted as an information gathering centre to disseminate latest information on the situation. Hotlines were provided for the public: 2463064, 2460519, 2460957 and 7178966.

UBD also conducted Sunnat Hajat prayer and recitation of Surah Yaasiin yesterday morning. - Borneo Bulletin (3 March 2013)