Malaysia's government has blamed a group of foreign tourists for a magnitude 5.9 earthquake on one of the country's most sacred mountains. The earthquake on Mount Kinabalu killed at least 16 people on Friday, and authorities are still searching for at least two others.
A few weeks ago, the ten foreign holidaymakers stripped naked, posed for a series of photographs and were accused of urinating as the scaled the mountain in the Malaysian state of Sabah. The photos didn't appear on social media until days before the earthquake.
Deputy Chief Minister of Sabah Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan said on Saturday that he believes the tourists caused the earthquake, according to Buzzfeed.
Pairin said that the earthquake was 'confirmation' that Mount Kinabalu was sacred and that people 'cannot take it lightly', the Malay Mail Online reported.
Pairin saw a flock of birds outside his home and had a feeling something bad might happen, he told Malay Mail Online.
He said: 'At first I didn't think anything of it, but after it went on for more than half an hour I knew something was not well. I brought it up with my wife and we bought agreed that something bad was going to happen.
'The next day, I was on the way to the airport when the earthquake occurred. To me, when something like this happens, it is a clear connection of the incident to the earthquake that has brought about so much damage and loss of lives.
'There is almost certainly a connection. We have to take this as a reminder that local beliefs and customs are not to be disrespected.'
He added that he plans to charge five tourists who authorities have identified.
Local official Datuk Masidi Manjun added that the identified suspects will not be allowed to leave the country until their cases are resolved, according to the Malay Mail Online.
Located on the island of Borneo, the 13,435ft peak has protected status within a national park and is considered a sacred site by Sabahans, The Star reported.
Photos showing the tourists stripping at the Unesco World Heritage Site caused outrage in Malaysia, with their tour guide claiming they broke away from the main group and ignored his requests to keep their clothes on.
Ten male and female tourists – believed to include two Canadians, two Dutch and a German – allegedly called their mountain guide 'stupid' and told him to 'go to hell' as he escorted 27 holidaymakers, The Malay Mail reported.
Those who have been identified are Canadians Lindsey and Danielle Peterson, Dutch citizens Dylan Thomas and Eleanor Hawrins, and German citizen Stephan Pohlner.
Lindsey and Danielle Petersons' father, Floyd Peterson, told the Canadian Press that he had no idea what his children were up to.
'Would you tell your parents you did this?' he said. 'I don't have anything to say, I'm just absorbing this.'
A Canadian Foreign Ministry spokesman told BuzzFeed News that the ministry is aware of reports that the Peterson siblings are being held.
'Canadian consular officials in Malaysia are in contact with local authorities to gather additional information and are providing consular assistance to the Canadian citizens as required,' Nicolas Doire said.
The five individuals could be charged as early as Monday, the Canadian Press reported.
This is the latest example of a growing trend that sees tourists get naked at major tourist attractions, including Machu Picchu in Peru and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, for keepsake photos.
Malaysian authorities said on Sunday 16 bodies had been recovered from the country's highest peak Mount Kinabalu after the magnitude 5.9 earthquake caused landslides and aftershocks.
The victims were 6 Malaysians, one from the Philippines, China and Japan, and 7 Singaporeans, including children who were on a school trekking trip.
The search and rescue operations would continue on Monday, Manjun said.
Some climbers managed to make it down but more than 130 from 16 countries had been stranded on the mountain on Borneo island when the quake struck on Friday.
Rescue and recovery operations have been hampered by rubble and thick clouds which prevented helicopters from quickly retrieving the bodies.