Mt Kinabalu may be shorter after quake – geologist


KOTA KINABALU: Is Mount Kinabalu still standing tall at 4,095 meters or is it now shorter?

According to Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) geologist Professor Dr Felix Tongkul at a public talk on the Ranau earthquake at the UMS Recital Hall yesterday, the possibility of the mountain losing a bit of its height was not improbable but this would probably be just a few centimeters shorter.

On the other hand, the possibility of the mountain gaining a bit of height was also probable, he said.

He added that a survey was currently being done to see whether the mountain gained or lost a bit of height following the quake and subsequent aftershocks.

“There is yet an answer, but logically, it should go down a bit … with the magnitude of 6.0 Richter scale, the mountain could experience about one meter in reduction from within but not at its surface, which will not see that much changes,” he said.

Dr Tongkul also disclosed that the mountain was still at the phase of experiencing aftershocks and the fault lines were easing their way down to Tuaran and to the South China Sea. So far, 100 aftershocks have been recorded.

He also pointed out that the possibility of Ranau getting hit by an earthquake stronger than the 6.0 Richter scale it experienced on June 5 was quite remote.

He said this was based on previous records that were available to them.

However, he said that it was difficult to be precise because Sabah did not have enough earthquake records prior to the 1960s.

So far, the records showed that Ranau has been hit by three major earthquakes in 1966, 1991 and 2015.

Very little or no details of aftershocks and smaller quakes were recorded between 1966 and 2010, he said.

He attributed the lack of records collected then to the lack of stations established to detect the quakes.

Now Sabah has seven stations to detect earthquakes in Sabah located in Telipok, Ranau, Kudat, Telupid, Tawau, Sapulut and here (at UMS).

Dr Tongkul explained that in order to pinpoint the exact location of an earthquake, the readings from three stations must be garnered.

It was through these readings that the relevant authorities were able to identify that the exact location of the recent major earthquake was near Mesilou Resort in Kundasang (20 kilometers from Ranau town) and that the exact strength of the quake was 6.0 Richter scale and not 5.9 Richter scale as was previously reported, he said.

Through the devices, it was also found that Ranau actually experiences regular earthquakes and in 2014, the district experienced a 4.7 Richter scale quake.

Earthquake occurrences were also recorded since 2010 but the scale of the quakes was small in nature.

Despite some advancement in technology, Dr Tongksul said it was still difficult to find out when an earthquake would strike and where.

He chided those irresponsible individuals who posted and re-posted details on when and where the next big earthquake would strike following the June 5 incident and dubbed these acts as ‘not good’.

“A lot of people are posting inaccurate details on the Internet and sharing photographs that were not part of the incident here but claiming otherwise … be careful what you choose to re-post on WhatsApp because the cost in terms of psychology and stress incurred is high (especially on those affected),” he said.

Apart from that, he cited that Mount Kinabalu was still unstable and that a proposal had been made to the government to establish a sensor on the mountain.

He added that it would probably be installed soon and UMS was working with Sabah Parks on the matter.

He said the sensor would enable geologists to monitor the condition on the mountain and to detect any seismic movements.

Following the major quake, he said it would take some time for the mountain to stabilise.

Dr Tongkul also said the recent quake should serve as a challenge for Sabahans in several aspects ranging from their land use and the need for land use planning to be implemented.

“It appears that we were caught unprepared, but this is not surprising,” he said.

Earlier, he also mentioned that the unpreparedness was partly because of Sabah’s location outside the ‘Ring of Fire’.

The ‘Ring of Fire’ encompasses countries prone to earthquakes and have active volcanic activities such as Indonesia, The Philippines and Japan.