KUALA LUMPUR - A 5.1-magnitude earthquake and two other weaker ones struck Sabah on Saturday, prompting some fearful residents to flee their homes and Prime Minister Najib Razak to order all government agencies to take necessary action.
The 5.1-magnitude quake occurred in Ranau, Sabah, at 2.29 am, with the epicentre at about 25km south-east of Kota Belud, the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MMD) said.
The quake caused tremors in Ranau, Kudat, Beluran, Kota Marudu, Kota Belud, Keningau and Kinabatangan.
Besides the moderate quake, the MMD said two "weak earthquakes" occurred at 2.25am and 12.07pm in Ranau. They measured 3.9 and 2.3 on the Richter scale.
"I received news of an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.1 on the Richter scale which hit Ranau, Sabah, this morning.
"The relevant government agencies and assets must be mobilised to take all needed action," Mr Najib said in his Facebook and Twitter postings.
The fire and rescue department was investigating whether there was any landslide or casualty, The Star Online reported.
Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the Malaysian Armed Forces have been on standby in Sabah for any upcoming aftershocks that may occur in Ranau, The Star Online reported. He added that the armed forces have been there since day one when the June 5 quake hit Ranau.
"We will continue to monitor the situation under the orders of the National Security Council," he said in a press conference on Saturday.
Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman urged residents in districts at risk of quakes not to panic but to take precautions for their safety, Bernama news agency reported.
"They must always be alert and careful. At the same time, the public must be more responsible and avoid disseminating news or photographs of earthquakes which have nothing to do with us.
"In the current situation, we must cooperate and look out for each other and not cause worry and make baseless criticisms on the authorities' response in an earthquake disaster," he was quoted as saying.
Since the June 5 quake which killed 18 people on Mount Kinabalu, more than 60 aftershocks have been recorded.
Many people were jolted out of their sleep on Saturday, with some of them saying the tremors were like the June 5 quake.
"I was woken up by the shaking and ran outside to find out if the house was coming down," said Azmi Francis, 19, from Jalan Penampang.
A Kundasang resident, Rayner JS, said that he was still traumatised by the June 5 quake and has not been sleeping properly for a week.
"Only prayers can help keep us calm now," he said.
The Star quoted a villager in Kota Marudu as saying that he feared the latest aftershock could be an indicator that another strong quake may be on its way