Mount Kinabalu earthquake
Mount Kinabalu appears through the clouds over Kota Kinabalu, capital of the east Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo islandReuters

A 6.0-magnitude earthquake has hit near Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia, trapping 160 climbers in one of Southeast Asia's highest mountains.

The strong quake, which struck at a depth of 10km and whose epicentre was located about 54km east of Kota Kinabalu, also injured four climbers, who suffered broken bones and head wounds.

It also damaged buildings in the town of Ranau.

The tourism minister for the Malaysian state of Sabah Masidi Manjun said the climbers could not come down "as the trail has been rendered impassable by falling rocks". Majun said that rescue operations were ongoing at Mount Kinabalu.

All climbing activities have been cancelled for safety reasons, due to loose stones and boulders still falling due to the tremor.

According to Manjun, the quake was so strong that it severed one of the two "Donkey's Ear" rock that form part of the 4,095-metre peak:

Mount Kinabalu is sacred to the local Kadazun Dusun tribal group, considered a resting place for departed spirits, AFP reported.

The Mount Kinabalu National Park is listed in the Unesco World Heritage Site list and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state of Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo.