KOTA KINABALU: It is highly unlikely that a 50m-high tsunami, generated by a massive undersea landslide, will hit Sabah's northern coast, says a geological expert.
"A 50m-high tsunami will only be produced if the whole mass of a submarine shelf falls at one go. This is quite a rare occurrence. I personally think the chance of this happening is very, very low,'' said Prof Dr Felix Tongkul from the University Malaysia Sabah's Natural Disaster Research Centre.
He said this after a Malaysian Meteorological Department official spoke of the possibility of a giant wave hitting the northern Kudat coast if a massive undersea landslip happened.
Dr Tongkul said the 50m-high tsunami prediction was based solely on a simulation of a giant undersea landslide of a submarine shelf in deep waters in the South China Sea near Brunei.
He explained that there was evidence of such landslides, these usually moved slowly and in stages, and a 50m-high wave would only occur in the "very, very worse scenario".
Dr Tongkul said that simulations of tsunami generated by earthquakes from the Manila Trench could produce waves of about one to two metres in height around the Kudat area, which was more likely the case.
He added that a group of Brunei researchers had conducted research on the marine trough offshore Brunei and had found evidence of landslides over an area measuring about 100km long and 70km wide.
"It is known as the Brunei landslide to researchers,'' he said.
Dr Tongkul explained this could be evidence of multiple smaller landslides occurring over time.
"It is a big one (shelf) and if it falls at one go, then it could trigger a massive tsunami.
"But landslips at the shelf have been occurring for thousands, if not millions of years and may be continuing today.
"That is why we believe that it would be very rare for such a massive landslip to occur,'' he said.
He emphasised that Malaysian researchers only did a simulation of what would happen if the entire shelf collapsed.
The tsunami issue has been abuzz in Sabahan social media circles after a meteorologist said it was possible during a television programme on RTM.