Seismologists can help Malaysia face earthquakes, tsunamis

JOHOR BAHRU (Dec 26): The government should develop a group of seismologists specially trained in studying earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

In making the suggestion, Prof Dr Edy Tonnizam Mohamad, director of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s (UTM) Centre of Tropical Geongineering (Geotropic) said this was in view of the volcanoes in neighbouring country, Indonesia, being active again of late.

The cone island Anak Krakatau volcano, for instance, erupted three days ago, causing a tsunami in the Sunda Strait that killed hundreds of people.

Bali’s Mount Agung volcano erupted five times in November 2017 and again in late June and early July this year, shooting smoke and ash thousands of metres into the sky, with traces detected as high as 23,000 feet, and left thousands of tourists stranded on the resort island.

Edy Tonnizam said that 135 years ago (in 1883), the Krakatau island volcanic eruption that killed 30,000 people, resulted in tsunami waves as high as 100 metres and surrounding countries like Malaysia and as far as Australia also felt the impact.

“We see the risk of natural disasters not just involving earthquakes and tsunamis of late but also volcanic eruptions,” he said when interviewed at the UTM Geotropic Centre, today.

”An active volcano that erupts can cause not just a tsunami and earthquake, but the ash and gas spewed by the volcano can also be life threatening,” he noted.

Edy Tonnizam, who started his career as a geologist and geophysicist, said expertise in the field of seismology could help improve the country’s preparedness in facing disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes, as well as the existing early warning system used.

“We need to develop seismology expertise to form a specially trained team to look at the changes and for early warning signs (underground movements),” he added.

Edy Tonnizam said the Indonesian government was also developing the same expertise now, as well as getting the expertise of countries that had experienced volcanic eruptions, and that Malaysia should follow suit.

He noted that had the Anak Krakatau volcanic eruption be of the same or slightly lesser magnitude than the Krakatau’s in 1883, the tsunami could have been worse than the one in 2004 and Malaysia could also have been affected.

However, he said, the duration for a similar disaster to occur could take a hundred years or more but Malaysia should make early preparations following the frequent eruptions of Indonesia’s active volcanoes of late. 

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