KOTA KINABALU: A mud volcano eruption at Sabah's Tabin Wildlife Sanctuary in Lahad Datu is a natural seismic occurrence and is no cause for concern, says geologist Prof Dr Felix Tongkul.
"It erupts at regular intervals when mud pressure inside the earth increases. Minor shakes from earthquakes nearby may trigger this eruption.
"The release of pressure, in theory, should lessen the occurrence of severe earthquakes," said Prof Tongkul, a volunteer with Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) as an Honorary Professor of Geology.
He was commenting on the Tabin mud volcano eruption at about 10am on Sunday (Sept 18) when eight tourists from the United States and their local guide caught sight of the mud being spewed up to a height of 6m for about 30 minutes.
The relatively rare phenomenon was captured on camera and quickly spread on social media.
"This is a normal occurrence, not to worry.
"However, since Lahad Datu is an earthquake-prone area, we should be prepared (for any eventuality)," he said when contacted on Monday (Sept 19).
Tour guide Hamit Suban said they were in a forest tower when they heard a loud bang and realised that the mud volcano had erupted.
He said it lasted about 20 to 25 minutes and they watched it from the tower about 70m away.
"I am told that this mud eruption to a height of six metres is probably one of the highest observed," Hamit said.
Similar eruptions reportedly occurred in 2014 and 2019 but were not caught on camera.
In the video, people are seen near the mud volcano when it erupts and there are sounds of panic as someone orders them to move away.
Usually, the volcanic pool merely bubbles and does not spew mud.
The pool at Tabin Wildlife Sanctuary and the Pulau Tiga volcanic mud pool off the west coast of Sabah are popular tourist draws for people wanting to take a mud bath.
A 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit Mount Kinabalu in 2015 and left over a dozen climbers including children and guides dead in a swathe of damage.