Sunday, December 26, 2004

Earthquake (Updated)

The news gets much, much worse.

This morning, at just before 9.00 am, Kuala Lumpur felt the prolonged tremors from a massive
earthquake centred on the northern part of Sumatra, sending tidal waves across the Straits of Malacca and Indian Ocean. The quake has now been measured at 8.9 magnitude which is huge, the strongest in the last 40 years. Sumatra is part of the "Ring of Fire" which encircles of the Pacific Ocean and where some 90 per cent of the world's seismic activity occurs. I live on the sixteenth floor of an apartment block, a fairly vulnerable location. For nearly five minutes - like an eternity - the whole building started swaying in slow motion. There was no real panic as all the residents evacuated the building but neighbours were a bit bewildered as to the cause of the tremors since peninsular Malaysia is not prone to seismic activity. But people remained calm and we were given the all-clear to return to our apartments after 30 minutes. We got off lightly.

Our thoughts go to the people of Aceh province in Indonesia - the epicentre - which has its own deep-seated problems. There are already reports of deaths and considerable destruction further afield: more than 1,300 are reported dead in coastal Sri Lanka; more than 1,000 in southern India; and an unknown number in southern Thailand. This is a terrible, terrible catastrophe. We can only hope that the rescue services can make the best of a very bad situation. Planet Earth has an awesome power and we ignore it at our peril.


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