JOHOR BARU: The two Singaporeans reported missing at Johor's Gunung Pulai could have gotten lost because they did not use a route usually taken by climbers, Johor police chief Mohd Khalil Kader Mohd said on Wednesday (Feb 7) afternoon.
Speaking to reporters at the search-and-rescue operations centre in Kampung Seri Gunung Pulai, Mr Mohd Khalil said that authorities have found "no signs" of the hikers, who had been missing since Monday.
The duo has been identified as Mr Dominick Tan Chang Xiang and Ms Clarice or Lum Jie, both 27. Mr Tan is said to be an experienced mountain climber who has hiked Gunung Pulai many times.
Mr Mohd Khalil said it had never taken this long to find anyone reported missing in the Gunung Pulai Forest Reserve.
He also said that authorities knew the missing hikers had telephones - a distress call was made on Monday - but the battery could have drained.
"To our Singaporean counterparts, rest assured we are doing our utmost best to ensure their rescue and bring them to safety," he said.
Meanwhile, Kulai Fire and Rescue Station chief Mohd Khairi S Zainudin, who is the operations commander, said the usual route from the foothill near Kampung Seri Gunung Pulai to the peak was 3km long.
“The distance from the foothill was about 1.5km to Bukit 308, the last location from where the hikers had made the emergency telephone call,” he said.
The climbers had reportedly entered the Gunung Pulai area at 12.15pm on Monday and made the emergency telephone call to the authorities at 5.55pm on the same day. They were last contacted at about 10pm.
Singapore’s consul general in Johor Bahru, Rajpal Singh, was at the search-and-rescue operations centre and spoke to the families of the missing hikers.
The search operation involves nine groups of rescuers from various agencies, who are covering an area of 36 sq km around Gunung Pulai.
Ms Chloe Quek, who said she is Ms Lum's friend, wrote on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon to try and reach out to experienced hikers who might be able to "help cover the area".
She said the search team would usually take off at 8am with "no ending time (some sleep on the mountain)", adding that she would be "grateful" if people would spread the word and help build the team.
At the briefing, Mr Mohd Khalil advised climbers to keep to the usual route, which he said many climbers had strayed away from to admire the flora and fauna.
“If they want to stray, they should know how to set markers to enable them to get back to the route. Keeping to the route will prevent one from getting lost,” he said.