The chances of a serious earthquake in Singapore remain extremely low, given that its nearest fault line is 300km away in eastern Sumatra, said veteran geologist Kerry Sieh.
He said last Friday's 6.0-magnitudequake in Sabah, though rare, was the result of a shifting 10km fault line about 10km beneath the surface, south of Mount Kinabalu.
"Unlike Sumatra, Nepal, Taiwan and Japan, which straddle fast-moving tectonic plate boundaries, Sabah is not a place well known for destructive quakes," said the head of the Earth Observatory of Singapore at Nanyang Technological University. There have been three quakes of such intensity there in the last century.
Professor Sieh and his team are now poring through seismic recordings from around the world, measurements of ground deformation from orbiting satellites, and analyses of Sabah's mountainous topography to understand what happened and why. They suspect that the fault in question is part of a system of faults that runs nearly 200km across Sabah.
Prof Sieh noted that there has been no record of an earthquake in Singapore to date, although weak tremors are felt occasionally from distant quakes. While there is no such thing as absolute certainty in earthquake prediction, he stressed that unlike Sabah, there is no indication the plate Singapore is on is "mildly cracking".
His team plans to try and pin down what exactly happened in Sabah, and put appropriate safety measures in place.
This article was first published on June 10, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.