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Wednesday December 7, 2005

Tsunami SMS making waves


PUTRAJAYA: The public should not believe e-mail or SMS warning of a tsunami striking Malaysia between now and January. 

Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Kong Cho Ha said no one could predict an earthquake or its magnitude. 

“It’s possible to say there will be a major earthquake in Tokyo, for instance. But it is impossible to know whether it will happen next year or 100 years from now. 

“It’s true that some experts, after analysing data, have predicted that the epicentre of (the next) earthquake in our region will be further north, towards the Andaman and Nicobar islands and that this will cause greater effect in the Straits of Malacca. 

“But it’s irresponsible to cause panic by spreading any message stating the exact time that a tsunami will occur,” he told reporters after launching a seminar on e-community by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia here yesterday. 

“Anybody getting messages warning of a tsunami over the next few weeks should ignore them. They're not true,” said Kong. 

A few weeks ago, Thai seismologist and meteorologist Dr Smith Dharmasaroja warned that Malaysia and Singapore were in danger as the epicentres of quakes had been moving northwards to the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The Dec 26 tsunami occurred off the coast of Sumatra. 

Five years ago, Dr Dharmasaroja, then head of the Thai Meteorological Department, predicted that a tsunami would hit Phuket, but the government did not take his warning seriously and called him a mad man. 

Today, the 70-year-old has been recalled by Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and made the head of the Thailand National Disaster Warning Centre, which has been putting a tsunami early warning system in place. 

An email, quoting Dr Dharmasaroja, has been making the rounds in Malaysia since last week warning people to stay away from beaches in December and January.  

UKM deputy vice-chancellor (research and innovation) Prof Dr Ibrahim Komoo said he received two messages via SMS over the past few weeks warning of a tsunami in Malaysia. 

Dr Ibrahim, an expert in geology who has conducted research on earthquakes at Akademi Sains, said people should not believe such messages unless they were issued by the Meteorological Services Department.  

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