Last night, thousands of residents in the coastal areas of Sabah were evacuated to higher grounds following reports of a tremor in certain parts of the State. This was due to a quake (measured between 6.9 to 7.2 on the Richter scale by various sources) in Southern Philippines at about 1223 GMT with an epicentre off the coast about 157 km west of the town of Isulan in Mindanao. The quake had caused fears that it might trigger a tsunami to this parts of Borneo.
Villagers in the coastal areas from the towns of Kudat to Tawau as well as in the West Coast of Sabah including Sembulan, Tanjung Aru and Tuaran, were advised to move to higher grounds as a precaution. Residents staying in outskirt towns near Kota Kinabalu city, such as Petagas, Putatan, Papar and Lok Kawi also moved out, most on their own accord. Just two days earlier on Thursday, 3 February 2005, there was a tremor measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale in the Ranau area although it was said to be weak and did not cause any serious damage to the surrounding inhabitants.
The Saturday night episode caused some uncertainties and as shade of panic among Sabahans throughout the night and early this morning. There were some traffic jams from the coastal highway from Tanjung Aru-Sembulan, and from the Papar-Lok Kawi highway even at midnight. Night dwellers around Kota Kinabalu had an early night off, and most night spots and pubs were almost abandoned before 1.00 am. The services of most of the handphone/cellphone communication were also disrupted for several hours causing more anxieties that something was amiss.
Before the Boxing Day, any similar alert may not have even raise the eyebrow of most Sabahans, but the vivid imagery of still pictures and video footages (courtesy of the media) on the devastating Asian tsunami and its aftermath has definitely changed everything in perspective. In fact, just weeks ago, a rumour that a sea quake had occurred in one of our neighbouring countries triggered a massive self-evacuation in Semporna town located in the East Cast of Sabah.
No untoward incident may have occured here, and authorities had said that no aftershocks were expected from the initial quake last night and there was no sign of any possible tsunami in this region, most Sabahans (and perhaps, most people around the world) will not want to take any risk associated with a possibility of a tsunami hitting their coast.
Life had definitely changed for better or for worse since 26 December 2005.
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