Wednesday, 20 May 2009


Aftershocks rock Al-Ais :Muhammad Al-Sheikh & Yousuf Muhammad Arab News

YANBU: Strong aftershocks were felt in the village of Harrah Al-Shaqah and its adjoining settlements in the Al-Ais area yesterday with the Civil Defense declaring emergency in the region and ordering complete evacuation.

According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), the strongest of the aftershocks measured 5.6 on the Richter scale at 8:10 p.m. yesterday. Earlier, a Saudi Geological Survey (SGS) statement said: “The magnitude of the earthquake has been rising notably from 3 to 4.81 on the Richter scale with a total of 46 earthquakes recorded between 2 p.m. Monday and 2 p.m. today. The strongest tremor occurred 7.7 km beneath Harrah Al-Shaqah and its adjoining villages.” Aftershocks were felt in Umlaj, Wajh and Ula.

An SGS team that is conducting an aerial survey of the quake-hit area found a large crack in the earth and opened a quake detection station at Harrah Al-Shaqah.

The USGS posted on its website that an earthquake measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale was observed in western Saudi Arabia yesterday morning. USGS pinpointed the location 195 km west northwest of Madinah (25.105 degrees N, 37.788 degrees E) with the epicenter at a depth of 10 km underground. The latest quake of magnitude 5.6 hit the same area.

The Civil Defense warned people in Al-Ais and its surrounding villages to avoid areas where smoke is coming out of the ground as such areas are more likely to see volcanic eruptions. It also said that rumblings and pungent smells are indications of possible eruptions.

Roads in Madinah are currently choked with people leaving for open areas and gardens. In Umlaj there have been reports of people fainting. The Civil Defense, which has been put on full alert, has also evacuated people to safe areas.

People in Yanbu also left for open areas and camped out on roadsides and gardens while waiting for the all clear.

Madinah Gov. Prince Abdul Aziz bin Majed ordered the acting undersecretary at his office, Ibrahim Al-Khattab, and other high officials to inspect safety arrangements in the area, and do all that is necessary to ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents.

The officials have been asked to guarantee the rehabilitation of the affected people, Al-Khattab said in a statement.

The machines that arrived at the Civil Defense Center here are the latest and most accurate to detect seismic activities — both the rumblings and volcanoes. The machines have been brought on the orders of Lt. Gen. Saad Al-Tuwaijiri, director general of the Civil Defense.

Heavy machinery that can work under rubble and cameras with remote sensors have been brought in by the Civil Defense. Powerful generators to run them are in place and experts in seismic activities are monitoring the situation.

People reported tremors all day yesterday. Students in Yanbu were excited rather than scared by the tremors.

The Ministry of Education has sent senior officials to the region to make sure teaching in schools is not disrupted.

Civil Defense authorities have also reserved more hotel rooms and furnished apartments in view of the increasing number of people leaving villages close to the affected area.

Col. Essam Farrash, acting director of the Civil Defense in Yanbu, told Arab News that evacuees who wanted furnished apartments were provided with the same. He said up to 800 people were evacuated from Al-Qarasa, Al-Hadama and Al-Amid, and were put up in various Yanbu hotels and apartments on Monday. Officials denied reports that they had stopped providing evacuees with furnished apartments.

“As part of housing arrangements, permits have been issued to evacuees to seek shelter either in Madinah or Yanbu. Those who were issued permits for Madinah will get their accommodation there and those issued permits for Yanbu will be provided accommodation in Yanbu,” an official said. He added that only the best available apartments have been selected for them.

“Seven patients have been admitted to Yanbu General Hospital,” said Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Saeedi, director of Health Department in Yanbu, adding that an emergency hospital with 50 beds and latest instruments has been put on alert in Yanbu.

Hospitals and health centers in the city are ready to handle eventualities, he added.

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