KOTA KINABALU – A major undersea earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter scale struck southeast of the Philippines on Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.
The quake was measured at a depth of 617 km (380 miles), the USGS said and tremors were felt in various parts of the State capital, Sandakan, Labuan and Tawau.
Malaysian Meteorological Department director-general Datuk Che Gayah Ismail said the quake occurred at 2.13pm and had its epicentre 267km southeast of Isabel City in the Philippines and 466km north-east of Semporna in Sabah.
The after-lunch quake sent dozens of workers scurrying for safety out of tall buildings in Labuan.
One of the buildings evacuated was the Financial Park Complex owned by Bank Negara which houses more than 80 government agencies and departments, food outlets, shops and offshore financial firms.
Labuan Corporation (LC) chairman and Labuan MP Datuk Rozman Isli was among the LC staff who vacated their offices at the 11-storey Menara Perbadanan Labuan.
Personnel from the Labuan Fire and Rescue Service arrived at 2.32pm to check the building and ordered all the tenants and occupants to gather at a safe place about 50 metres from the complex.
LC corporate affairs officer Usamah Ibrahim told Bernama the tremors were not intense but enough to frighten the occupants of Menara Perbadanan Labuan.
He said the staff looked at one another when they felt the tremors and immediately rushed to the lift to get out of the building, he said.
Hamidah Osman, one of the staff at the complex, said she was terrified after seeing the glass on her table shake.
“This is the first time I had experienced this situation. Worried that the building may collapse, the other staff and I immediately rushed to the lift while some used the staircase to leave the complex,” she added.
In Kota Kinabalu, workers at Kuwasa (EPF) Building, Times Square, SESB and other tall buildings all felt a short jolt and for safety reasons got down to the ground floor.
The tremors, which began at 2.13pm, lasted about 10 seconds, and were felt by those near the city centre such as Tanjung Aru and Kepayan.
In Sandakan, staff of the Sandakan federal building at Mile 7, Jalan Labuk were also ordered out of the structure as tremors were also felt there.
There is no tsunami threat, said the department.
The Fire and Rescue Department said it had been deluged with phone calls from anxious members of the public and its personnel are checking all tall buildings for any sign of damage.