Malaysia: Highly unlikely 50m-high tsunami will hit Sabah -- Expert

MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 4 Nov 16;

KOTA KINABALU: It is highly unlikely that a 50m-high tsunami, generated by a massive undersea landslide, will hit Sabah's northern coast, says a geological expert.

"A 50m-high tsunami will only be produced if the whole mass of a submarine shelf falls at one go. This is quite a rare occurrence. I personally think the chance of this happening is very, very low,'' said Prof Dr Felix Tongkul from the University Malaysia Sabah's Natural Disaster Research Centre.

He said this after a Malaysian Meteorological Department official spoke of the possibility of a giant wave hitting the northern Kudat coast if a massive undersea landslip happened.

Dr Tongkul said the 50m-high tsunami prediction was based solely on a simulation of a giant undersea landslide of a submarine shelf in deep waters in the South China Sea near Brunei.

He explained that there was evidence of such landslides, these usually moved slowly and in stages, and a 50m-high wave would only occur in the "very, very worse scenario".

Dr Tongkul said that simulations of tsunami generated by earthquakes from the Manila Trench could produce waves of about one to two metres in height around the Kudat area, which was more likely the case.

He added that a group of Brunei researchers had conducted research on the marine trough offshore Brunei and had found evidence of landslides over an area measuring about 100km long and 70km wide.

"It is known as the Brunei landslide to researchers,'' he said.

Dr Tongkul explained this could be evidence of multiple smaller landslides occurring over time.

"It is a big one (shelf) and if it falls at one go, then it could trigger a massive tsunami.

"But landslips at the shelf have been occurring for thousands, if not millions of years and may be continuing today.

"That is why we believe that it would be very rare for such a massive landslip to occur,'' he said.

He emphasised that Malaysian researchers only did a simulation of what would happen if the entire shelf collapsed.

The tsunami issue has been abuzz in Sabahan social media circles after a meteorologist said it was possible during a television programme on RTM.


Tsunami threat looms over coastal Sabah, residents urged to be prepared
AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 5 Nov 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Coastal Sabah faces the possibility of being struck by a tsunami in the event of a massive underwater earthquake or catastrophic seabed erosion, says the Sabah Meteorological Department.

Its director, Azemi Daud, said the state has the potential of being struck by seismic sea waves, based on scientific studies carried out by researchers across the globe.

“The size (of the tsunami) will depend on the depth of the undersea quake. However, there is no way we can forecast when exactly that will take place.

“If we look back at history, the coastal district of Lahad Datu was hit by an earthquake 40 years ago.

We can expect (another earthquake in the future), but it’s (not definite),” he told reporters during a tsunami exercise at Dewan Sri Putatan here.

Commenting on claims that Kudat district, about 190km from here, is likely to be hit by a tsunami, Azemi pointed out that an underwater earthquake in the Philippines (Manila Trench) or the massive collapse of a seabed cliff off Brunei may create such a situation.

He also said Putatan, near here, is also among high-risk areas, as the small district is located by the sea.

This morning, about 1,000 Putatan residents from four villages, namely Kampung Contoh, Pasir Putih, Teluk Vila and Sri Pandan took part in a tsunami drill aimed at increasing awareness on the dos and don’ts of dealing with disaster.

Local authorities and enforcement agencies such as the fire and rescue department, the Civil Defence Department, the People’s Volunteer Corps, the armed forces, and the police were also mobilised to assist in evacuation during the mock emergency.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Yahya Hussin was also present to monitor the level of preparedness among villagers and governmental departments in responding to tsunami warnings and alerts.

“I am satisfied with the commitment shown by the people, and I hope that they will gain valuable knowledge and put them into practice in an actual situation,” said Yahya.


UMS geologist says tsunami threat in Kudat "quite low"
AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 5 Nov 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Kudat folks have been advised to remain calm.

The possibility of the coastal district being slammed by a devastating tsunami is “quite low” said Universiti Malaysia Sabah geologist Prof Dr Felix Tongkul.

He explained that only massive underwater earthquakes measuring over 7 on the Richter scale could generate a threatening tsunami.

“The occurrence of big earthquakes is quite rare. Even if they do occur along the Manila Trench and generate tsunami, Kudat is located quite far away from the tsunami source.

“By the time tsunami waves reached Kudat, it would have decreased in energy and would be quite small, around one to two metres high only,” he said when contacted, adding the people should not be worried.

“For a worst case scenario, say, an earthquake of magnitude 9.3 occurs in the Manila Trench and generates a tsunami.

This will produce around three to four metres high tsunami waves along the west coast of Sabah. “Again, earthquake of this magnitude is extremely rare,” Tongkul stressed.

It was reported residents living in Kudat’s coastal areas have gone into panic mode following claims that a possible 50m high tsunami would hit the district.

The statement was made by Malaysian Meteorological Department deputy director general (operation) Dr Mohd Rosadi Che Abas in a recent television interview.

“This (50m high tsunami) is just an output of a computer simulation based on assumption that a huge underwater landslide can occur offshore Sabah.

“This gigantic underwater landslide can displace a huge amount of water that produces the 50m tsunami. However, like I explained earlier, this is unlikely to happen,” Tongkul emphasised.

Earlier during a tsunami drill in Putatan near here, Sabah meteorological department director Azemi Daud did not rule out possibility of a tsunami striking the state’s coastal areas in the event of a massive underwater earthquake or catastrophic seabed erosion.

He noted that an underwater earthquake in the Philippines or a massive collapse of the seabed cliff off Brunei can be factors creating a recipe for disaster.

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