By Anuradha Raghu
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - The bodies of 11 climbers have been recovered from Malaysia's highest peak Mount Kinabalu after a 6.0 magnitude earthquake triggered a series of landslides, officials said on Saturday, as rescuers searched for eight still missing.
A total of 137 climbers, including several foreigners, who had been stranded when the quake first struck on Friday have safely returned to the park's headquarters, Sabah's minister for tourism Masidi Manjun said in a post on Twitter.
Among the dead was a 12-year-old schoolgirl from Singapore, identified as Wee Ying Ping Peony, who was part of a trekking group of 40, and a 30-year old local mountain guide.
The other nine that were killed have yet to be identified, Ranau district police chief deputy superintendent Farhan Lee Abdullah told a news conference at the Kinabalu Park headquarters.
Climbers from 16 countries had been stranded on the mountain on Borneo island, including 117 Malaysians, 38 Singaporeans, five Americans, four Dutch, three British, two French and two Australians, he said. There were also tourists from Belgium, Thailand, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, India, New Zealand, South Korea, Denmark and China.
Rescue and recovery operations are still ongoing but have been hampered by bad weather.
"We are trying to bring down the nine bodies for the top of the mountain, but it's a problem because of the thick clouds," a rescue official told Reuters.
"We are trying to bring them down by helicopters, but the mountain top is still looking cloudy. But even if the weather is still bad, we will try bring them down by whatever other means."
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak said "all efforts are being taken to rescue victims of the tragedy".
The U.S. Geological survey said the epicenter of the quake, which struck on Friday morning, was about 54 km (33 miles) from the state capital of Kota Kinabalu.
Manjun told state news agency Bernama that all climbing activities on Mount Kinabalu would be halted for three weeks from Saturday.
Foreign and domestic hikers flock to Sabah to climb the 4,095-metre (13,435 feet) Mount Kinabalu on the Borneo island.
Officials said, and media pictures showed, that the mountain's landmark Donkey's Ears twin peaks had been badly damaged in the quake.
(Editing by Jeremy Laurence)