Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Tremors Cause Some 1,500 People In Penang, Kedah To Be Evacuated

KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 (Bernama) -- A total of 1,525 people along the coastal areas in Penang and Kedah were evacuated as soon as the tremors triggered by an earthquake in Sumatra occurred just past midnight Tuesday, the Dewan Rakyat was told.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said it was among the preventive measures taken by the authorities after the undersea earthquake, measuring 8.7 on the Richter scale, shook West Sumatra at 12.09am.

"As soon as the Seismology authorities received the report, it was relayed to the Malaysian Control Centre (MCC) in Bukit Aman.

"Among the first measures taken by the MCC is to alert the information authorities to issue the warning through the radio.

"We also asked police stations throughout the country to inform the people about the tremors," he said when replying to a supplementary question from Datuk Astaman Abdul Aziz (BN-Titiwangsa).

Mohamed Nazri said the tsunami alert warning was withdrawn at 6am after there were no more aftershocks at the earthquake site.

"After the first earthquake, measuring 8.5 on the Richter scale, there were 15 more tremors up to 5.26am, with the highest measuring 6 on the Richter scale and the lowest 4.6," he said.

Elaborating on the tremors at a media conference later, Mohamed Nazri said the evacuees have been allowed to return to their houses after the tsunami warning was called off.

"The evacuees were residents at coastal areas who were affected by the Dec 26 tsunami tragedy last year," he said.

He said the epicentre of the earthquake was located only 520km from Kuala Lumpur, causing areas in the Klang Valley and Melaka to experience the tremors apart from the states in northern Peninsular Malaysia.

"We (the Seismology Department) received the initial warning about five minutes after the earthquake and immediately relayed the information to the MCC which in turn alerted the relevant authorities," he said.

He said the authorities had not receive any reports of damage or casualties from the tremors so far.

Mohamed Nazri said he was satisfied with the pre-emptive actions taken by the authorities in warning the people of the incident.

"With the equipment available currently, the actions taken were satisfactory, especially in warning the public.

"The earthquake has the potential to trigger a major tsunami," he said, adding that he too felt the tremors. "It's very frightening," he said.

Earlier, replying to a supplementary question from Parliamentary Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur), Mohamed Nazri said the authorities had done what was within their means to warn the people as television transmissions had ended by then.

He ticked off Lim for relying too much on information from the foreign wire reports as even among the foreign media there were confusion in providing the latest information.

Lim, in his question, disputed the accuracy of the scale of the earthquake given by the Malaysian authorities.

He said the Cable News Network (CNN) reported that the earthquake measured 8.7 on the Richter scale and not 8.5 as reported by the Malaysian authorities.

Replying to the original question from Astaman on the funds collected for the Dec 26 tsunami victims, Mohamed Nazri said the fund currently stood at RM60,498,619.71.

The amount, he said, did not include RM29,174,661.03 which have not been handed by the funds established by the media.

"Actually, media organisations like TV3, TV8, New Straits Times, Berita Harian, Utusan Malaysia and The Star had collected RM64,874,455.26 but the amount given to the government to be credited into the National Disaster Fund was only RM35,699,794.23 as of March 24," he said.



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