Flags at half-mast as Singapore mourns Malaysia quake victims
SINGAPORE (UPDATED) – Flags flew at half-mast and the glittering Southeast Asian Games paused for a minute of silence Monday, June 8, as Singapore mourned the death of 8 citizens including 6 pupils in a Malaysian earthquake.
The "day of national remembrance" declared by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong took place as the remains of the victims were flown by military plane from an airport near Mount Kinabalu to the stunned city-state.
Two other members of their school-organized Singaporean climbing party remain missing on Malaysia's highest mountain. The official overall death toll stands at 16.
Sports venues across Singapore went silent for a minute before the start of competition on the third day of the biennial Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, which it is hosting ahead of its 50th anniversary of independence in August.
The Singapore flag was flown at half-mast at all government buildings, muting any celebration over the Games medal tally which put the hosts well ahead of the field with more than 30 golds so far.
The US Embassy also lowered the Stars and Stripes to half-mast in a gesture of solidarity.
"It was sombre, but there was also a lot of love and support," Education Minister Heng Swee Keat wrote on Facebook early Monday after meeting family members of victims at a military base.
"Let us show our support for the families and each other," Heng said.
The victims – 6 students from the Tanjong Katong Primary School, a teacher and a Singaporean adventure guide – were on an excursion to the popular destination when a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck on Friday, June 5, sending boulders rolling down and unleashing landslides.
Singaporean media reported that one student and the adventure guide were buried on Monday morning in accordance with Muslim funeral rites.
At the victims' school, which is currently closed for mid-year holidays, Singaporeans arrived to leave messages of condolence and bouquets.
In social media, some people blacked out their pictures or replaced them with a black version of Singapore's national symbol, a lion's head.
Prime Minister Lee's ruling People's Action Party darkened its red and blue lightning logo on Facebook.
It is the second time flags have flown at half-mast this year.
A week-long period of national mourning was declared after the death of independence leader Lee Kuan Yew, the father of the current leader, in March.
In Malaysia parliament observed a minute of silence to remember the Mount Kinabalu victims. – Bhavan Jaipragas, AFP / Rappler.com