GEORGE TOWN: Hotels along Batu Feringghi here are on the alert after a tsunami warning was issued following a massive earthquake off Sumatra.
Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Penang chairman Mary Ann Harris said all the hotels there had advised their guests to stay off the beaches.
"Everyone is on standby and on the alert," she said.
MAH Penang vice-chairman Marco Battistotti said the hotels were also monitoring the situation.
"We learnt a lot during the 2004 tsunami and it is being put to good use this time around,” he said, adding that he was keeping in touch with the hotels and getting updates every five minutes.
The Fire and Rescue Department has also deployed 24 personnel at beaches along Penang island's northern coast from Gurney Drive to Teluk Bahang to warn people to stay off the beaches in view of a potential tsunami.
Bagan Jermal fire station Chief Ravi Arunasalam said the department's Penang headquarters issued an order for personnel from his station and the Teluk Bahang station to be stationed along the beaches.
A Penang Meteorological Department spokesperson said the public should stay away from beaches as the Pacific Tsunami Watch Centre in Hawaii had already issued a tsunami warning.
A check by The Star found that there was traffic congestion along Tanjung Tokong Road and Kelawei Road as people were leaving shopping malls along these roads.
At the Straits Quay mall, some shop owners decided to close their outlets earlier after hearing about the tsunami alert.
A shop supervisor, who wished to be known only as Ooi, said she did not want to bear the risk although there might not be a tsunami.
"This shopping mall is located just by the seaside," she said.
Gurney Drive and the beach areas along Tanjung Tokong, Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringi were among the places hit during the December 2004 tsunami.
Pulau Tikus community policing chairman Lim Seong Hin, whose members have been deployed to Gurney Drive to warn the public, said he was told that if there was a tsunami, it would hit Penang at 9pm.
On the mainland, the management of Sunway Carnival Mall in Seberang Jaya announced the mall's closure for the day at 7pm, following a second round of tremors felt at 6.45pm.
All shoppers, tenants and employees were advised to vacate the building immediately.
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