A strong earthquake that jolted Malaysia's Mount Kinabalu has killed at least 11 people and left another eight missing on Southeast Asia's highest peak, a government official said.

The 6.0-magnitude quake struck early yesterday near the picturesque mountain, a popular tourist destination.

It sent landslides and huge granite boulders tumbling down from the 4,095-metre peak's wide, jagged crown.

"As at noon time (0400 GMT), 11 bodies have been recovered and eight people are still missing," Masidi Manjun, the tourism minister for the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island, said on Twitter.

Malaysian rescuers earlier today brought down to safety 137 hikers who had been stuck on the mountain for up to 18 hours.

Their descent had been blocked by damage to a key trail and the threat of continuing rockfalls.

The quake, one of the strongest in the country in decades, jolted a wide area of Sabah state.

It shattered windows, cracked walls and sent people fleeing from buildings in the nearby state capital of Kota Kinabalu.

However, no reports of major damage have emerged and no other casualties have yet been reported.