Could an earthquake hit Kuala Lumpur?

  • TV
  • Wednesday, 04 Nov 2015

Henry Golding gathering accounts of the earthquake from mountain guides, natives and seismologists in Sabah.

Two months have passed since the devastating 5.9-magnitude earthquake hit Sabah. TV presenter Henry Golding was making his ascent up Mount Kinabalu as part of a documentary crew filming Discovery Channel’s Sabah Earthquake Decoded when he felt a tremor.

“It wasn’t all too much of a surprise as the head park ranger did tell us there was still some activity and some tremors. But we were pretty shocked when we all sort of felt that at the same time,” Golding recounts his earthquake experience during a phone interview.

“It was almost like a small explosion underneath our feet, quite a muted, very distant explosion, but extremely noticeable.”

Golding explains the land still hasn’t settled after the earthquake and the tremor he experienced measured around 3.0 on the Richter scale.

“What we felt was the land kind of finding its final resting place. That’s why it feels like a very sharp and very quick movement,” he says.

Sabah Earthquake Decoded, a one-hour special hosted by Golding, helps viewers understand the tragic events that took place on the morning of June 5. Caused by a violent shift of the Earth’s tectonic plates, the earthquake took 18 lives that day.

The 28-year-old host of English-Iban descent, who was among the first film crew on ground zero, was roped in on the documentary due to his East Malaysian connection.

“They wanted to get somebody familiar with the two states. I’m from Sarawak actually. So it’s very similar to Sabah where there is a sort of animistic approach to religion. The animistic belief comes into play when we’re talking about mountain belief,” he says.

Golding’s understanding of Sabah’s religious and cultural practices is important, as a link has been made between the earthquake and the actions of 10 tourists from Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain who stripped naked and urinated on Mount Kinabalu a week before the incident.

The tourists may have angered the "aki"(ancestors considered to be protectors of the Land Below the Wind) as the mountain is considered to be a sacred site.

“They all know that nothing of this magnitude can really be put onto just a bunch of tourists on top of the mountain not conforming to the rules and regulations,” he shares the sentiments of the heads of villages in the area when asked if the tourists were to be blamed.

Henry Golding gathering accounts of the earthquake from mountain guides, natives and seismologists in Sabah.
Henry Golding gathering accounts of the earthquake from mountain guides, natives and seismologists in Sabah.

Golding adds: “I believe in the science behind what happened, especially once we talked to the seismologist in Sabah itself and Singapore and learn there has been a history of these movements in the plates around Sabah.”

In the documentary, researchers explain the science behind the earthquake, especially since the country is out of the quake-zone, the Ring Of Fire in the Pacific Ocean, and try to answer other important questions, such as the possibility of future earthquakes and whether it could strike not only Sabah but Kuala Lumpur.

“There has been historical evidence and data from the observation sensors in Kuala Lumpur.

“There are ancient fault lines which lie in and around Kuala Lumpur. And there is always movement. The world is in constant flux. Plates will always be moving,” he says.

It’s not entirely out of the picture then, especially after a visit to Bukit Tinggi in Pahang, led by a professor from the University of Malaya Geology Department.

Golding shares: “We went to find evidence, just outside of Kuala Lumpur to an area where an ancient fault line had reactivated, and the shift in soil was visible from the surface. And that was only an hour outside of Kuala Lumpur.”

Sabah Earthquake Decoded airs Nov 5 at 9pm on Discovery Channel (Astro Ch 551).

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