5 natural disasters you never think would happen in Malaysia

Malaysia - Kuala Lumpur City

Okay, so maybe the probability of an alien invasion or Armageddon occurring is stretching it a bit too far, but you gotta admit there’s a whole lot of other scary stuff out there. 

Growing up, we have all learned in our Geography class that Malaysia is a fortunate country. Strategically located near the Equator and encased by Indonesia, Thailand and The Philippines, our country is well protected from natural disasters as any of it will have to hit our neighbouring countries first before affecting Malaysia. By the time these calamities get to our country, what is left is usually just a tame tropical depression.

Despite being geographically lucky, we still had our share of disasters that claimed the lives of many innocent souls. In 1993, Malaysia was shaken by the Highland Towers collapse after it hit by a landslide, the first (and probably the worst) incident involving a multi-storey building, where it took the lives of 48 people. In 2004, the calamitous tsunami that was caused by the Indian Ocean earthquake also struck Malaysia and the death count topped 67.

Although these disasters are fairly mild compared to other countries, but with the rise of global warming these past few years, we are now frequently feeling more of its effects.

Here are 5 natural disasters that you would think could never occur in Malaysia.

#1 Typhoon

In 2017, from the late night of 4th November till the wee hours of 5th November, some parts of the northwestern region in the Peninsular, including Penang and Kedah, were lashed by unflagging winds and torrential rain. At about the same time, Typhoon Damrey spread across Vietnam, killing at least 61 people.

According to the Penang Water Supply Corporation, Penang experienced its heaviest rainfall in recorded history – 315mm in a single day. Most Penangites were puzzled by the rainfall and strong wind, and many thought that a typhoon had hit the state.

However, what hit Penang was not Typhoon Damrey, but rather a tropical disturbance – which is the very beginning of a possible typhoon. Although it was not an actual typhoon, but the fact that a typhoon can follow if the rain and wind persisted is beyond scary. You wouldn’t want to see this happening in Malaysia:

Source  GIPHY

#2 Hailstorm

If someone were to tell you that there was a hailstorm in Malaysia, most of you would not buy it. Being a country blessed with tropical weather, it’s impossible for hail or snow to occur. But due to global warming, all of this is suddenly possible. In 2016, when the entire country was melting faster than an ice cream with the maximum temperate hitting 35°C – all thanks to El Nino, Shah Alam experienced a freak weather incident:

It hailed in the city for 10 minutes. Yes, you heard it right. It was raining ice cubes in the city!

Source: GIPHY

Although most people will be fascinated by this occurrence, it clearly shows that the global climate is changing drastically. Kuala Lumpur also witnessed such a weather, but on a more dangerous scale. A phenomenon that was once extremely rare, today is a much more common event. Which make you wonder, what might happen next?

#3 Earthquake


Earthquake is a common natural disaster that plagues quite a few countries across the globe, but not in Malaysia. However, if there’s a strong earthquake in Indonesia, Thailand or other neighbouring countries, we sometimes do feel the tremors. But all of that took a change in 2015 as our country experienced a powerful earthquake in Ranau, Sabah. The town was shaken by a 6.0 magnitude quake, which killed 18 people and injured 130 others. It was the strongest earthquake to affect Malaysia since 1976.

Imagine your home being destroyed in just a split second. Scary stuff indeed.

Source: GIPHY

When we thought it was just a freak incident and there’s no way for a repeat occurrence, another earthquake struck Sabah once again in March 2018. A 5.2 magnitude earthquake which lasted for about 3 seconds was felt in the northwest of Sabah.

For those who are unaware, Malaysia lies within the Sunda Microplate, a “small” tectonic plate that includes much of Indonesia. Since the country lies on the plate, it doesn’t have the usual strain buildup that would cause earthquakes. Having said that, there are parts of Malaysia where tectonic forces are sufficient to generate earthquakes, as the abovementioned incidents. So if you think we are completely free of it, you’re wrong.

#4 Flood

This is one natural disaster that we are no stranger to. Despite being a common calamity that occurs annually due to the monsoon season, but its severity is still large as it claimed countless amount of lives over the years. The worst flood to occur in recent times definitely has to be the 2014-2015 floods.

A total of 8 states were affected, with the north-eastern areas to be hit the worst. The flood which lasted from 15th December 2014 to 3rd January 2015 claimed the lives of 21 people and left more than 200, 000 homeless. Despite being a yearly occurrence, the floods in Malaysia seems to be getting worse with each passing year. As such, the damage caused is horrible, causing many unlucky Malaysians to rebuild their house every year.

#5 Tropical storm

If we could name one deadly incident caused by a natural disaster that happened in Malaysia, we have to hand in the award to Tropical Storm Greg that hit Sabah. In December 1996, the storm brought in a huge amount of rain, and this water mixed with the soil in Keningau to form what geologists call a debris flow. In layman’s term, we can simply call it a landslide in liquid form.

A debris flow is a type of landslide where a huge amount of water mixes with soil and other stuff like large rocks, trees and wood to form something like a flowing mud.

It almost looks like an avalanche just that this one is made from soil. Now imagine this debris flow wiping out several villages in Keningau. According to the Jabatan Kerja Raya (JKR), this particular incident currently holds the record for the highest number of causalities for a single landslide event in Malaysia so far, with 302 recorded deaths.


The landslide incident in Keningau claimed 302 lives. Source: National Slope Master Plan by JKR Malaysia.

With so many different kinds of disasters occurring in our country, it’s fair to be worried, especially the aftermath of it. Trying to put your life together after a disaster is a strenuous job, both physically, mentally and financially. 

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*Written by Rubaa Shunmuganathan and edited by Reena Kaur Bhatt.