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Earthquake effects in a non-Earthquake Zone

Updated on April 11, 2012

Can it be considered strange that non-Earthquake zone countries can feel the effect of tremors? If you refer to the Seismic activity chart, you will find that Peninsular Malaysia is off limits on seismic activity, but in reality, we can feel the tremors as and when our neighbor gets an earthquake inshore or offshore.

As recent as April 7, 2010 at 6.15am (local Malaysian time), there was an Earthquake off the west coast of North Sumatra (Indonesia) with a Richter Scale of 7.5, which was strong enough to sway high-rise buildings in central Peninsular Malaysia. A friend who was in a Condo felt his unit swaying, and he rushed down with his family to get out of the building and they walked down from the ninth floor. It is understandable why people get out of the building when there is such a threat of collapse when Earthquakes strike within the region – in Malaysia, which is not within the earthquake belt, most high-rise buildings need not put in the Earthquake resistant design codes and safety standards, unlike the buildings in California. However, there are tall buildings which have incorporated Earthquake and Wind Resistant designs – for one, the PetronasTwinTowers, a one time tallest building in the world, and currently still the tallest TwinTowerBuilding in the World.

Most neighboring country’s Earthquakes affect the high-rise buildings in Malaysia, and since I stay in a landed property, I could not feel any movement or effect when the Earthquakes strike, not even when the most devastating one which struck on December 26, 2004. However, when an Earthquake struck in September 2009, I was in the 9th storey of a Commercial building, and I noticed a vibration of the building as well as dust particles falling from the ceiling of the room I was in and which were made from plaster materials. When there was movement in the glass of water on the table, I decided it was time to get out of the building – that was with a magnitude of 7.0 Richter Scale.

Only today, April 11, 2012, there is another powerful Earthquake off the Acheh province, Sumatra, Indonesia, with a Richter Scale of 8.6 magnitude, in the Indian Ocean, and again, tremors were felt in the West Coast of Malaysia, in the central region, especially to those staying in high rise buildings. My daughter, staying in one of the Condos, felt abit dizzy, even though she was staying in the second floor of the building which is about 15 storeys high. It is indeed strange that we can feel tremors on Earthquakes happened in the Ocean where Malaysia is shielded by the land mass of Sumatra - how shock waves travel beneath the water appears to be amazing and shocking at the same time. So, no country, even though we are not in the Earthquake belt, can be considered to be Earthquake proof.

I know what an Earthquake is and how frightening it can be, although I am resident in a non-Earthquake zone. I experienced such an Earthquake in January 17, 1994 (Northridge) when I was in the Marriott Courtyard hotel in Laguna Hills, California when it struck at 4.30am with a magnitude of 6.7, and I was about 70 miles away from the epic center. The bed was shaking so hard, it woke me up. Without knowing what is happening then, I jumped off the bed onto the floor and the shakes did not stop, that was when I realized that an Earthquake had struck, even with my illiteracy at that time on the subject – it lasted about 30 seconds, the longest 30 seconds fear for my life. Although I did not suffer any injury, not even psychologically from what can be considered a ‘traumatic’ experience, I paid attention to all the notices whenever I am in California about what not to do when Earthquake strikes – with a thought that it can mean a life and death situation.

There have been, so far, no reports of buildings collapsing due to Earthquakes, including high rise ones in Malaysia, only the fear that it may happen, but the authorities have been giving assurances and reassurances that there is no danger it happening here. However, having said that, can Earthquakes affect us in a non-Earthquake zone, with serious consequences? You bet they do, the devastating effects come in the form of Tsunamis where the destruction and effects were reported widely, both in the printed media as well as cyber ones, after the Quake which happened on December 26, 2004.

Being shielded by the Sumatran Island mass, nobody would have imagine the effects caused by the Earthquake, in the form of a Tsunami, which caused death to 68 people, mostly in the Island of Penang, the northern part of the Malaysian Peninsular. Overall, injury was caused to 75 people throughout Peninsular Malaysia then. Although the effects were not as bad as those in Phuket, Thailand, on the same day, it was still devastating to the residents of Penang, who probably may not have seen many such kind of destruction.

The question is, are we safe from the effects of being in a non-Earthquake zone? Most probably, there may not be any reassuring answer at all, since Earthquakes by themselves, are so unpredictable, on the strength and magnitude and latitude of when and where they will strike. At best, should there be an Earthquake of a certain magnitude identified, our Meteorological Department in Malaysia will sound out a Tsunami alert, just in case, as they have done for the past few Earthquakes off Sumatra. Fortunately, so far, none of those Earthquakes caused any worrisome Tsunamis, similar to that of 2004. I suppose it is better to be safe than sorry.

As for now, I am staying in an area which is away from the coastline, and in the Central region of Peninsular Malaysia, and on higher ground, and in theory, I am safe, but am I? Of course, I am hopeful that the Seismic chart I have is accurate and that the Fault Lines are on the West of Sumatra remained in my lifetime. From what I read, the fault lines can shift, and if they do, I am also hopeful that they don’t shift from West to the East of Sumatra, where the devastation of an Earthquake will be felt by us much more, and definitely new laws on high rise buildings need to be re-drafted to include the Earthquake Resistant (not Proof) codes into the Building designs. Of course, if that happens, that is a drastic shift of the Fault Line, and in scientific theory, this will not happen, I was told, or will it?


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    • Steel Engineer profile image

      Steel Engineer 5 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine

      It is important for designers to remember: code books are only a MINIMUM standard. True, they have massive safety factors, cumulatively. However, it remains up to the designer to employ sound engineering judgment.

      Older codes required design for seismic of 10% of the dead load. Most calculations come out to about this amount.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 7 years ago from Wales

      A great hub and I now look forward to reading more of your work.

      Take care.

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 7 years ago

      @Ingenira, yes, the number of disasters seem to have increased, and even non-earthquake areas are affected too. Thanks for dropping by...

    • Ingenira profile image

      Ingenira 7 years ago

      I was wondering the other day, are the natural disasters increasing on the globe ? Indonesia seemed to have sufferred a lot in recent years, and a few other countries in the world are getting unpleasant surprises.

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 7 years ago

      @Art, didn't know about the quake in McAlester Oklahoma, yes, who would have thought... fortunately it's a 3.1, impact may not be that great, but it's still a frightening thought. Thanks for the visit!

    • Art 4 Life profile image

      Art 4 Life 7 years ago from in the middle of nowhere....

      Earthquakes are really happening all over, in what I would call non earthquake zones...there was an earthquake ( 3.1) in McAlester Oklahoma Monday...who would have thought?

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 7 years ago

      @twentyfive, thanks for dropping by to read my hub... yes, quakes are really scary...I encountered it first hand, as what I said in the Hub in LA.

    • twentyfive profile image

      twentyfive 7 years ago

      Earthquakes are damn scary. Our countries are neighbors and we felt that Indonesia quake, too. Always good to be aware and prepared and of course know the drills. Great hub. Thumbs up :)

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 7 years ago

      Vocalcoach - sorry to be replying this late - read your hub and gave you the thumbs up!

      Joy56 - thanks for reading my hub - it's really devastating, and currently not living in an Earthquake zone gives me abit of relief, but always worry about my friends in CA, whenever I hear an earthquake strike.

    • Joy56 profile image

      Joy56 7 years ago

      i so enjoyed all the insight you gave us about Earhquakes, they are certainy "In one place after another"... and have lots of devastating effects.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Very informative and excellent hub! Thanks. If you get a chance, would you please vote on my hub, up for a nomination? It would mean so much. Thank you.

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 7 years ago

      Dashingclaire - Thanks for the comment and for reading my hub.

    • dashingclaire profile image

      dashingclaire 7 years ago from United States

      Fault lines maybe shifting around the world as evident w/earthquake in Maryland this year considered a non-quake state. Great hub!

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 7 years ago

      Jasonycc - yes, it's scary stuff. Like I said in the hub, hopefully, the fault line won't shift too much to include Malaysia as part of Earthquake Zone.

    • jasonycc profile image

      jasonycc 7 years ago from South East Asia

      Informative stuff but scary too! Nowadays natural disasters happen so frequent, so unpredictable and on a huge magnitude. God bless us!

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 7 years ago

      Thanks for reading my hub, 2besure. When I was young, we never heard of any quakes affecting us physically in Malaysia, now we do - the shifting of the fault is inevitable, but hopefully quakes will not affect us during my lifetime. :)

    • 2besure profile image

      Pamela Lipscomb 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      It seems like earthquakes are happening more and more and in places you would not expect. I remember 20 years ago there was an earthquake in the Bronx, NY. I guess the earth is shifting in several places.

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 7 years ago

      Thank you for the comment. Only consolation is we are not in the fault line, but that does not exempt us feeling the effects, unfortunately. Praying hard for those who live in the zone.

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 7 years ago from London, UK

      Scary stuff, but very handy to know.

      I hope we hear less of these earthquakes, infact I hope we don't hear any more bad news at at all.

      Stay safe.

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 8 years ago

      Yes, there are earthquakes every now and then, especially from Sumatra, but not everyone of them will be felt in Malaysia, if you are not staying in high rise buildings. Thanks for your comment.

    • einron profile image

      einron 8 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

      I was not aware of an earthquake on April 7, 2010 on the north coast of Indonesia with a Richter scale of 7.5 affecting central Malaysia.

      Both my brother and brother-in-law constantly check on news in Malaysia, but neither mentioned anything. I shall tell them.

      Hope to read more about Malaysia.