KOTA KINABALU: Sabah currently has 28 earthquake monitoring stations to continuously detect seismic movement following the tragic quake three years ago.
Set up by the Malaysian Meteorological Department, geologist Prof Dr Felix Tongkul said the monitoring system allows the department and experts to record as well as locate low magnitude earthquake with better accuracy.
“After three years from the 2015 Ranau earthquake, we now have a slightly better understanding of the seismic hazard in Sabah through our continuous mapping of active fault lines, which may trigger future earthquakes.
“We now have a seismic hazard map of Sabah, published by Department of Mineral and Geosciences Malaysia. This seismic hazard map shows the distribution of earthquake hazards levels from low to high,” he told NSTP when contacted.
A fault line refers to a long crack in the earth’s surface. Earthquake usually occurs along the fault lines.
Tongkul, who is also attached to the University Malaysia Sabah, said the seismic monitoring stations are spread across the state with higher density around Mount Kinabalu in the highland district of Ranau.
On June 5, 2015, a 5.9-magnitude earthquake rattled Sabah, killing 18 people on Mount Kinabalu. It was said the be the second powerful quake to hit Sabah after the 1976 earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale that occurred near Lahad Datu.
The 2015 earthquake was felt across the state and more than 100 aftershocks were reportedly recorded throughout the year.
On March 8 this year, a 5.2-magnitude earthquake struck Ranau but no casualties were reported. Tongkul had it was a new quake and not an aftershock of the 2015 tremor.
He noted there was a possibility an earthquake greater than Magnitude 5 to hit Sabah in the future.
“The possibility is always there. The reason for this is that past earthquakes of Magnitude 5 to 6 tends to repeat itself after a certain period of time due to continuous accumulation of tectonic stress,” he explained.
When asked whether construction of new buildings has observed the previous government instruction to build quake proof structures, Tongkul said constructions have to comply with the newly released National Annex to the earthquake building code, MS EN 1998-1 by the Department of Standards Malaysia in December 2017.
“This earthquake building code is based on Eurocode 8: Design of structures for earthquake resistance - Part 1: General Rules, seismic actions and rules for buildings. How far this has been implemented by the local authorities is uncertain at the moment,” he said.
He also noted there was still a long way to go in terms of preparation during earthquake, adding only limited number of people have been given awareness on the matter.
“I think more people are aware about earthquakes in Sabah. However, more effort need to be put with regards to what to do when there is such an occurrence and preparation by the relevant government agencies.
“Based on our on-going awareness program on earthquake hazard education, people are eager to know more,” said Tongkul.