KOTA KINABALU, Dec 24 — It registered a moderate 5.9 on the Richter scale, but the Ranau earthquake on June 5 came as a 2015 shock for Sabah and the nation.
It was the strongest earthquake ever recorded in Malaysia, striking Ranau at 7.15am on that fateful Friday and surpassing the 5.8 tremblor recorded in Lahad Datu in 1976.
The epicentre of the earthquake was 16km northwest of Ranau but tremors were felt by the people in districts such as Kundasang, Tambunan, Interior, Tuaran, Kota Kinabalu and Kota Belud.
The earthquake damaged the ‘Donkey’s Ears’ iconic peak of Mount Kinabalu and effected damage to property in Ranau.
Days before the earthquake, local media reported that a group of climbers from the West had gone naked at the peak of Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in southeast Asia, sacred to the local people.
The action of the disrespectful tourists incurred the anger of Sabahans because the foreigners had not respected the local traditions.
On June 12, the Sessions Court here sentenced four of the tourists to three days jail and fined them RM5,000 in default three months jail for their misbehaviour.
The earthquake had taken 18 lives, including of mountain guides.
Following the incident, 137 climbers were stranded on Mount Kinabalu. The quick action of the experienced mountain guides helped the search-and-rescue teams to bring down the climbers and the bodies of the dead from the 4,095.2-metre-high mountain.
Of the 18 killed in the earthquake, 10 were Singaporeans, among them students and teachers of Tanjong Katong Primary School as well as one travel guide.
The incident showed there was a need for Malaysia to have an earthquake early warning system because on that tragic day, Sabahans had gone about as usual without any inkling of the impending calamity while mountain guides proceeded to lead groups of climbers to scale the mountain.
The early warning system was also recommended by a study of the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Research and Innovation Centre even though Sabah is located outside the Pacific Ring of Fire but Kundasang, Ranau, Pitas, Lahad Datu, Kunak and Tawau face the risk of earthquakes.
The location of Malaysia’s neighbours in the earthquake zone did not exempt the country from the effects of earthquakes.
On June 28, the Meteorological Department reported that it had recorded 100 aftershocks after the June 5 quake.
The aftershocks, compounded with rain, resulted in mudslides that affected 1,000 residents in Kundasang, Ranau and Kota Belud apart from water supply disruptions in the affected areas.
The government estimated that more RM100 million is required to repair damaged buildings and infrastructure in the areas hit by the earthquake.
A study was also conducted to determine the need to create policies and guidelines to make buildings withstand earthquakes of up to magnitude 8 on the Richter scale.
The incident also highlighted the importance and role of mountain guides and they were recognised as members of the Mountain Search and Rescue Team (MOSAR).
Mountain climbing resumed at Mount Kinabalu on December 1 but the number of climbers is being restricted to 100 to 120 people daily for two months. — Bernama