A group of tourists who stripped down for the sole purpose of photographing themselves nude on a sacred mountain in Malaysia are now being blamed by local indigenous people for causing a deadly earthquake.
The 5.9-magnitude quake that hit Mount Kinabalu on June 4 killed at least 16 people and initially trapped more than 160. The mountain, on the island of Borneo, is at 13,435 feet one of the highest in Southeast Asia and is the tallest peak in Malaysia, according to the Washington Post.
Two of the tourists are Canadian, from Saskatchewan, and have been detained along with several others. Brother and sister Lindsey Petersen, 23, and Danielle Petersen, 22, have both been banned from leaving Indonesia, reported the Straits Times. They allegedly took off their clothes on May 30 along with several others so they could be photographed on the mountain, against the advice of their guide, the Straits Times said.
The mountain is sacred to numerous tribes in the region, including the Kadazan-Dusun tribe in Sabah state.
"Mount Kinabalu is considered a very sacred place by the natives of Sabah, and any action that could be interpreted as belittling the mountain is considered a very serious offense," state tourism, culture and environment minister Masidi Manjun told NBC News. “The belief among the natives is that the souls of the departed will rest on the mountain before the day of judgment. They practice rituals to honor the mountain."
No such rituals were in play when the group of climbers took off their clothes in what authorities said was a great show of disrespect. Another Canadian, Emil Kaminski, is a ringleader of sorts; he specializes in photographing and videotaping himself and fellow travelers sans attire on all kinds of world landmarks, just for kicks, the Washington Postreported.
The earthquake’s timing a week after the group’s gesture prompted Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan to blame the temblor on their lack of respect for the mountain.
"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," he said. "It is a sacred mountain, and you cannot take it lightly."