Suddenly, one of my colleagues shouted, 'Oh my God!' We looked at him looking straight at a bottle of water on the table. 'Earthquake!' he said. 'Yes, earthquake!' I echoed him. By now, most of us were in a state of shock, followed by a commotion. We started talking about 'THE EARTHQUAKE', not knowing that there was a quake in Sumatra though some knew of the tsunami that hit Saoma.
Even though the 'quake' stopped, we did not stop talking about it until...well, I don't know when. I left the office 15 minutes later and was still having some 'aftershocks'...As I left the building into the open, I couln't help but thank God for His mercy...that there were just tiny tremors...
@ The Star Online
Published: Wednesday September 30, 2009 MYT 6:33:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday September 30, 2009 MYT 10:18:04 PM
Quake in Sumatra, tremors in Malaysia (Update 8)
PETALING JAYA: A powerful earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale struck off the city of Padang off the coast of southern Sumatra at about 6.17pm on Wednesday, killing at least 21 people, trapping thousands of others and causing tremors as far away as peninsular Malaysia and Singapore.
The earthquake which damaged houses, brought down bridges and buildings and caused fires in Padang, also caused people to evacuate buildings in various towns and cities in Malaysia.
The epicentre of the quake was about 481km southwest of Kuala Lumpur.
At 6.38pm, a temblor measuring 5.5 in magnitude was also recorded 11km north of Padang.
So far, there has been no report of the 300 Malaysian students at Andalas University in Padang being affected by the massive earthquake.
Malaysian Consul-General Fauzi Omar told The Star that he has contacted the Sumatra Barat tourism chief and was told that there is no report of any Malaysians being hurt.
“Well at least the tourism chief’s handset is still working. I have been told the Minangkabau airport in Padang is closed.
“I am trying to leave for Padang tonight. It is a one-hour flight and by road it will take at least one day because of the bad road condition,” Fauzi said.
The Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta is despatching a team to Padang in Sumatra to assist the Consul-General in Medan in checking on the students.
Padang was hardest hit by the earthquake.
“We are sending a team as soon as possible and our Consul-General in Pekan Baru will also be despatched to help,” said Malaysian embassy charge d’affaires Amran Mohamad Zain.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre first issued a tsunami alert for Malaysia (George Town and Port Dickson specifically), Indonesia, India and Thailand, but cancelled it at about 7.31pm.
The Malaysian Meteorological Department monitored the situation from the outset, but did not issue a tsunami warning because no significant waves were generated.
In the JayaOne complex here, reports came in of shaking furniture and swaying fixtures.
In KUALA LUMPUR, Mariam Anis and her colleagues on their 21st-floor office in Plaza Sentral in Jalan Sultan Ismail felt the tremors.
“The tremors were strong and I could feel the building shaking. My colleagues and I did not waste another second and ran towards the emergency stairways to make our way down from the 21st floor.
“It was rather scary,” she said.
Tremors were also felt in the federal administrative capital of PUTRAJAYA. Mohd Kamel Othman, press secretary to Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, was in his office at the Prime Minister’s Department when he felt the tremors.
“I could literally see the building moving from left to right. Even the flowerpots were shaking. I immediately rallied my colleagues to leave the building.
“My minister also came out of his office as he too could feel the tremors,” he said, adding while he had experienced tremors before, the ones which on Wednesday were stronger.
In GEORGE TOWN, people rushed out of several high-rise buildings in Macallum Street, Tanjung Bungah, Tanjung Tokong, Gurney Drive and the inner city of George Town.
Student C.Y. Khoo, 18, said she decided to walk out from the cinema in Gurney Plaza with her friends after she felt the tremors.
“I feared for my safety. My friends and I decided to get out from the cinema although we like the movie very much,” she said.
A Golden Screen Cinema spokesman said a tremor was felt at about 6.20pm for about 25 seconds.
“Some moviegoers walked out of the cinema but ... generally, the situation was not that serious,” he said.
Penang police chief Deputy Comm Wira Ayub Yaakob said policemen were deployed to monitor the situation.
“My men were on the look-out and would have moved in to help if the need arose,” he said.
Marine Operations Force Region I commander Asst Comm Zainul Abidin Hasan said all his men, both at the base and on patrol, were put on standby.
State secretary Datuk Zainal Rahim Seman said Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was concerned about the initial tsunami alert.
“The state directed all relevant departments such as the police to be on standby,” he said.
A State Fire and Rescue Department spokesman said they received numerous calls from anxious residents enquiring about the tremors.
However, there were no reports of any injuries or of anybody trapped in lifts or buildings.
In JOHOR BARU, many people rushed out of buildings and the new Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complex halted operations abruptly and was evacuated for about 40mins.
This caused massive congestion as thousands of motorists were returning from Singapore after office hours.
Fire and Rescue Department personnel were called in to check the building before operations resumed.
The lanes were later reopened and traffic policemen deployed to control traffic at the complex.
Assistant administrative worker Wong Hook Tuck, 52, who was at his office at level six of Menara Plaza Pelangi, described the tremors as bad.
“The tremors started at around 6.15pm and lasted for about five minutes.
“I felt very dizzy and all my colleagues and I started to evacuate the building as the fire alarm had gone off,” he said.
He said he was in shock and had thought that there was an earthquake in Malaysia.
In Taman Ehsan Jaya, administrative executive Surinder Kaur said she was shocked when the people in her apartment building started running downstairs, saying that there was an earthquake.
“I stay on the second floor and I didn’t feel anything, but my neighbours warned me about the tremors and told me to quickly evacuate,” she said.
She said one of her neighbours was having his dinner at the time and the whole table started to shake, spilling the soup he was eating.
“All of the residents quickly assembled at the ground floor; the tremors lasted for about four minutes,” she said.
In SINGAPORE, residents from Toa Payoh, Woodlands, Bukit Timah, Simei and Kembangan in the eastern part, reported tremors shaking their buildings, The Straits Times reported.
A spokesman from National Environment Agency said it received calls from members of the public from Red Hill, Choa Chu Kang, Changi, Toa Payoh, the city area, Punggol, Sengkang, Sembawang and Pasir Ris.
Kee Ya Ting of Woodlands said she thought her flat was going to collapse.
“I was scared. I live on the 12th floor. I was sitting at my desk when the flat shook and I felt myself swaying from left to right. I thought my flat was going to collapse,” she told the paper.
In PADANG itself, the situation looked dire. Indonesian television reported that hundreds of buildings had collapsed and many people were feared trapped under the rubble.
Footage from Padang showed flattened buildings, with at least one person trapped underneath, a foot sticking out from beneath the debris, The Associated Press reported.
“The earthquake was very strong,” said Kasmiati, who lives on the coast near to the epicenter. “People ran to high ground. Houses and buildings were badly damaged.”
“I was outside, so I am safe, but my children at home were injured,” she said before her cellphone went dead.
The quake triggered a landslide that cut off land transport to the provincial town of Padang Pandang, which lies about 70km north of Padang, said a police officer in the town, who identified himself only as Riko. He said three cars were reportedly hit by the landslide.
Padang, a sprawling low-lying city of around 900,000, was badly hit by an 8.4 magnitude quake in September 2007, when dozens of people died and several large buildings collapsed, AP said.
Power in the city was reportedly cut and telecommunications networks were down or overloaded, making it difficult to get accurate information about the extent of the damage.
“Many buildings are badly damaged, including hotels and mosques,” said Wandono, an official at Meteorology and Geophysic Agency in the capital, Jakarta, citing reports from residents.
He said a steep, sloping riverbank collapsed, houses had toppled and a fire had broken out in buildings on the road to Padang.
Wednesday’s quake comes a day after a quake with a magnitude of between 8.0 and 8.3 in the South Pacific hurled a massive tsunami at the shores of Samoa and American Samoa, flattening villages and leaving at least 99 dead and dozens missing.
The epicenter of Wednesday’s temblor off Indonesia lies several thousand kilometres to the west, on the other side of Australia.
Geologists have said Padang, which lies near the colliding Indo-Australian and Eurasian tectonic plates, is the most likely in the country to fall victim to the next major quake or tsunami, AFP reported.
“There will be aftershocks but it’s difficult to predict whether there will be a bigger quake,” Geological Disaster Mitigation and Volcanology Centre head Surono told AFP.
“There are three big volcanoes in West Sumatra -- Merapi, Talang and Tandikat. We fear that this quake might cause volcanic eruptions there,” he said.
Experts have said the city is most at risk from a final segment along the zone shifting to unleash a massive amount of energy.
The zone’s other segments have already cracked, including a large portion off Aceh, at the northern tip of Sumatra, which triggered the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which killed more than 220,000 people.
Plans for evacuation shelters and improved roads to provide better escape routes from tsunami have mostly not been realised.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity.
A quake on the main island of Java earlier this month killed 123 people.