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Friday, June 17, 2016

Another earthquake could strike Sabah

Another magnitude 6.0 earthquake could jolt Ranau, Sabah, in the next two or three decades.

Revealing this, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Madius Tangau said the assessment was based on “past records”.

“Earthquakes are unpredictable but using past records, we can provide a return period of the same magnitude earthquake at the previous location,” he told The Star. In 1976, an earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale occurred in Lahad Datu.

On June 5 last year, Mount Kinabalu and the surrounding districts were jolted by a series of earthquakes, with the first measuring 6.0. The incident killed 18 climbers, including four mountain guides.

Madius said the Mensaban and the Lobou-Lobou Fault Zones in Kundasang-Ranau and Lahad Datu-Tawau Fault Zones were active and earthquakes in these areas “have caused and will continue to cause” damage to the infrastructure there.

He said further studies were needed to monitor and gauge the movement of unknown active faults to see whether a bigger earthquake would occur in the future. A Seismic, Tsunami Hazard and Risk study by the Meteorological Department categorised Malaysia as a country with relatively low seismicity, except for Sabah where earthquakes of local origin are known to occur.

But bordered by Indonesia and the Philippines, two of the most seismically active countries in the region, Malaysia faces a certain degree of earthquake risk.

“Comparatively, Sabah has a higher risk compared to Sarawak and the peninsula,” said Madius, a Sabahan who is the MP for Tuaran.

Universiti Malaya Geology Department Associate Prof Mustaffa Kamal Shuib said although Malaysia is located outside the Pacific Ring of Fire, it is still being pushed by the various plates.

“The Sunda land is being pushed towards the north-east by the Indian Australian plate.

“We are being pushed west by the Pacific and the Philippines plate. We are also being pushed downwards towards the south by the Eurasian plate,” he added.

“We are being compressed all over and absorbing all the stress due to the interaction of plates.

“One way to release the stress is to break along fault lines. When that happens, you get these tremors in the peninsula,” he said.

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