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Earthquakes and tsunamis Safety advice for Singaporean travellers

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There have been several incidences of devastating earthquakes and tsunamis occurring in destinations popular with Singaporean holidaymakers over the past few years.

In 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and tsunami killed 400 people in the city of Palu on the island of Sulawesi. Just a month before, an earthquake had struck Lombok and Bali. In the same month, a 6.7 magnitude tremor in Hokkaido killed at least 39 people.

An earthquake in Nepal in 2015 killed nearly 9,000 people and injured 22,000.

The World Risk Report

The World Risk Report is compiled by the United Nations University for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS). The report assigns a risk percentage to 173 countries, based on the chances of experiencing earthquakes, storms, floods, droughts and sea level rises. It also takes into account how well prepared each country is at dealing with a natural disaster.

Good to know that for us and visitors to Singapore, the Little Red Dot is number 15 in the world in terms of the least likelihood of a natural disaster (2015 report). Qatar is number one.

Least safe for natural disasters

Some familiar places in SE Asia are ranked in the top 20 as being least safe from natural disasters.

The Philippines comes in at number 3, Cambodia number 8, Japan at number 15, Fiji at number 16 and Vietnam at number 18.

In Europe, both Greece and Turkey are among the countries where a natural disaster is most likely to strike.

In view of the risks, how do we ensure that we're fully prepared should disaster strike? Here are some steps that we can take to help protect ourselves where possible. Plus expert advice about travel insurance.

E-register your trip

First off, besides making sure you have fully comprehensive travel insurance, the Singapore Ministry of Foregn Affairs MFA advises Singaporeans to e-register their trips with them before travelling overseas.

In times of emergency, this will enable the Embassy to contact you and provide assistance quickly.

To make things more convenient, you can e-register with MFA on their website or through the MFA@SG app, available for both Android and iOS devices.

Earthquakes. Safety advice

If you happen to be caught in an earthquake, here’s what you should do.

If you are indoors:

  • Drop to the ground. Get under a sturdy table or piece of furniture and hold on to it until the shaking stops.
  • If there is no table, cover your head and face with your arms.
  • Stay away from glass, lighting fixtures, windows or doors, or anything that could fall and hurt you.
  • If you are in bed, stay there. Hold onto and protect your head with a pillow.
  • Do not use a doorway unless you know that it is strongly supported.
  • Don’t go outside until the shaking stops. Do not exit a building during the shaking.
  • Do not use the lifts.

earthquake safety

If you are outdoors:

  • Move away from buildings, streetlights and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops.

If you are in a moving vehicle:

  • Stop as quickly as it is safe to do so and remain in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses and utility wires.
  • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.
  • If you are a passenger in a car, keep your seat belt fastened and hold onto a stable object tightly, such as a handle. This helps to keep you still if the car stops suddenly.

If you are trapped under debris:

  • Do not light a match.
  • Do not move around and kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can find you. Try not to shout as shouting can cause you to inhale huge amounts of dust.

Tsunamis. Safety advice

  • When you receive warning of a tsunami, if there is time, move to higher ground.
  • If you cannot get to higher ground, stay inside, away from the windows.
  • Monitor the tsunami’s progress and listen for warnings or instructions from local officials.


Vulnerable holiday spots

Most earthquake activity appears to be concentrated in a number of distinct earthquake belts. Here are some of the more earthquake vulnerable countries in the world that are popular holiday destinations with Singaporeans:

1. Japan

Japan sits in one of the most active earthquake zones on the planet, the Pacific Ring of Fire. Fortunately, it also has the most advanced earthquake-warning system.

In the event of an emergency, follow the advice and instructions of the local authorities. As transportation could be affected in such situations, Singaporeans should check with the respective airlines or tour operators for up-to-date flight schedules.


Singaporeans travelling to the affected areas are advised to monitor the local situation at the following websites;

2. Philippines

The Philippines lies on the edge of the Pacific plate, which is traditionally a seismic hot zone. Click here to find out more about the Singapore consular assistance if you’re in the Philippines.

3. Indonesia

Jakarta in Indonesia sits in a precarious position. It is situated atop the Pacific Ring of Fire. Also, less than half the city is below sea level, putting it on soft soil that has the potential to liquefy if an earthquake of sufficient magnitude were to strike.

Singaporeans travelling to Indonesia can check out the Singapore MFA for Indonesia

4. Nepal

Nepal is one of the seismically most active countries due to its location. It sits on the boundary of the two massive tectonic plates that collided to build the Himalayas. With the collision comes earthquakes. For Singapore consular assistance in Nepal seek the Indian office here.

5. India

India is vulnerable due to the movement of the Indian tectonic plate at the rate of 47mm every year. This has resulted in some deadly earthquakes such as the one in Gujarat in 2001. For Singapore consular assistance in India click here.

How do earthquakes occur?

The earth’s crust is divided into tectonic plates that are constantly in motion, grinding past one another at boundaries known as faults. As they slide past one another, the tectonic plates snag on rough patches of rock. The faults then stick together. The pulling of the plates at the entangled sections further creates more cracks and faults at the plate’s boundaries.

An earthquake happens when the pressure built up along a fault becomes stronger than the pressure holding the rocks together. The rocks on either side then rip apart. The energy from this separation radiates outward in all directions, including towards the surface, where it is felt as an earthquake.

If the earthquake occurs in the ocean, it can push up powerful waves known as tsunamis.


Travel insurance

Purchase comprehensive travel insurance as soon as you book your trip. That means you are covered the moment you buy your travel insurance should anything happen before your trip begins. For instance if you have bought your travel insurance before any news breaks out or travel advisory’s are administered you would be able to claim for curtailing your trip. Not only will this save you plane expenses, but you may also be refunded for your hotel and unused entertainment expenses. Check out Budget Direct Insurance for affordable comprehensive travel insurance with great benefits for cancellation, delay and curtailment due to earthquakes and tsunamis.

If you don’t purchase travel insurance before any advisory is issued or news breaks out, you will unfortunately have to bear the costs of cutting your trip short. Additionally, if you bought your travel insurance policy after the travel advisory was issued, you may not be adequately covered as many insurers will not cover known events or trips to countries against the advice of the government.

Get a travel insurance quote online today.
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