Rescue of nonagenarian from Mount Murud regarded as ‘a miracle’

Maria (second left) presents the cake to Balong. With them are Pastor Nelson (right) and Joy Tune, who contributed the cake.

MIRI: A 99-year-old Kelabit man Balong Brouk @ Pun Paran survived two cold nights without any warm clothing, food and water up on a mountain.

The Pa Lungan villager was found by a search-and-rescue (SAR) team member on June 27, at a spot near the peak of Mount Murud.

Rurum Kelabit Sarawak president Dr Philip Raja and Kelabit councillor John Terawe both regarded the rescue as ‘a miracle’, in view of Pa Lungan being dubbed as ‘the coldest village in Bario’.

Balong was reported to have gone missing while collecting firewood in the nearby jungle on June 25.

The villagers mounted the initial SAR team immediately after being alerted by Balong’s wife – the mission continued with formal SAR teams over the next two days.

An afternoon downpour on Thursday made the situation worse for Balong, but he had withstood hunger, thirst and cold until the day when he was spotted by a local youth, who volunteered to be part of the SAR team.

Pa Lungan men are renowned for their strength and hardiness, and Balong is proof of this even in his advanced age.

The late Olympian, Bala @ Kuda Ditta who received Ngalinuh Bala Award, also hailed from this village.

“For a 99-year-old man to go on without food and drink for nearly three days, amidst cold temperature as low as 15ºC for two nights – it’s an amazing survival,” said Dr Philip.

John, who was in Bario, said Balong was shivering on the ground when he found by the youth at 1.25pm on June 27.

“The rescuer initially thought he (Balong) was dead, but was surprised to find him alive, albeit shivering,” added John.

Rescuers rushed Balong to Bario Clinic, where he surprised the personnel in that he sustained no serious illness – except being very cold and hungry.

He was discharged the following day.

According to John, the victim later related that he had walked through the familiar jungle path instead of the proper trail up Mount Murud.

When asked by head of the Borneo Evangelical Mission (BEM) churches in Bario, Pastor Nelson Palong, about his reason for going up the mountain on Thursday, Balong replied that there were many people going up there to pray and he had been invited as well.

Meanwhile, Balong’s niece Maria Rikawas believed that he had walked up the mountain believing it was his home.

Balong’s wife, six sons, two daughters, 23 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and other loved ones celebrated his safe return by presenting him a cake at the clinic.

One of his sons rushed down to Bario from Miri upon learning about his disappearance.

It is informed that he is taking Balong to Miri today, to live with him.

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