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Tremors spark panic
Published on: Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: Tremors triggered by a major undersea earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 which struck the Celebes Sea saw people in the city rushing out of their buildings Tuesday afternoon.

Sabah Meteorological Department Director Azmi Daud said the earthquake occurred 466km north east of Semporna, in the Celebes Sea at 2.13pm.

"Tremors were felt in Sabah and Labuan but there was no tsunami threat," he said.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the earthquake happened at a depth of 617 km and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) stated that there was no tsunami threat as the earthquake was located too deep inside the earth.

Sabah Civil Defence Force Director Mulliadi Al-Hamdi Ladin said tremors were felt in Kota Kinabalu, Tawau, Telupid, Kudat, Beaufort, Papar and Sandakan. The main Post Office building here suffered slight cracks on its seventh floor as a result of the tremors, according to the Sabah Fire and Rescue operation room.

They monitored and inspected 12 buildings including government departments and hotels here and in Tawau after receiving almost 100 distress calls from public.

They found out that the seventh floor of the Post Office headquarters here had slight cracks and Public Works Department (PWD) has been informed to carry out further inspection so as to ensure the building is safe to be occupied.

A total of 97 calls were received following the tremors felt at about 2.13pm and the first call was at 2.26pm and a team of its firefighters and fire engines have been dispatched to the locations.

They checked the Wisma Wanita along Jalan Tuaran-Kota Kinabalu, Wawasan Plaza shopping complex, Innoprise building here, Ming Garden Hotel here, Yayasan Sabah, Inland Revenue Board building here, KWSP building, Bank Negara building here and the main Post Office here, among others.

Donna Masidah who works in the City Hall building said, initially she did not feel the tremors.

"But my friend told me that she felt a slight tremor and when I sat still, I felt it.

We immediately went out of the office and we waited for about 15 minutes before we entered the building again.

"It was quite scary as you can feel the sway," she said.

Meanwhile in LAHAD DATU, District Fire and Rescue Department Chief, Mohd Apandi Mahmood, said they did not receive any report in relation to the tremors.

Nevertheless, he reminded the public to be alert and contact the Fire and Rescue Department in case of any incident.

Abie Lim, 28, said she was shocked when she saw the display counter shaking while at work.

She said the tremor only lasted only a few seconds but she noticed that some of the items on the shop were shaking too.

"I immediately asked my friend and they told me that they also felt the tremor," she said, adding that this is the second time she felt tremors in Lahad Datu.

In TAWAU, most of the personnel and visitors at the Tawau Federal Complex rushed out to gather at the building's compound after experiencing the tremors.

Acting District Fire and Rescue Department Chief Faisal Ahmad said they conducted checks on the structural strength of the building together with the Public Works Department as soon as they received a call at 2.26pm.

"The inspection was done to see whether there was any major crack which could affect the building and we have ascertained that the building is safe to be occupied," he said.

Tawau Municipal Council President Alijus Sipil said they are always ready to activate the Disaster Committee Operational Room should they receive instructions to do so.

The tremors were also felt in SANDAKAN, where personnel at the Federal Office building in Mile 7 evacuated the building.

Sandakan Civil Defence Force Chief Ahmad Roslan said such measure is normal procedure during such situations.

According to him, occupants of a building should gather in an open space at least 100m from the building and should use the emergency stairs and not the elevators.

As a precautionary measure, all personnel were not allowed to enter their offices for an hour after the first tremor.

"We also inspected the building structure 40 minutes after the tremors," he said.

He said it is important for office workers to be aware of safety measures during such situation.

The tremor was also felt at Kampung Kolapis Laut, Beluran.

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