audi Arabia has finalized plans to build life-saving emergency earthquake shelters following warnings of an ever-increasing number of large-magnitude earthquakes that can hit different countries and regions across the globe, including the Middle East.
The Saudi Geological Survey (SGS), the state-owned body responsible for monitoring seismic activity, is working closely with the Civil Defense Department on the project.
“The SGS has selected many emergency shelter sites in different regions of the Kingdom, including Madinah, Yanbu, and Haradh,” Zohair A. Nawab, SGS president, said Saturday.
In his interview, Nawab also spoke about the Kingdom’s readiness to cope with any disaster, especially earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. The SGS is planning to select sites for emergency shelters in many other Saudi cities along the country’s Western region, where the level of seismic activity is high, he said.
“The idea to build special shelters was first conceived after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Iran,” said Nawab, and added that new seismograph stations with state-of-the-art equipment are being installed by SGS in the Kingdom so that the quality of data and information on earthquake parameters can be improved. He pointed out that the SGS is now responsible for all earthquake-monitoring stations and the monitoring of seismic activity in the country.
Nawab said that most of the stations are currently concentrated in the Western Province.
They are located in the north of Yanbu in the area of Harrat Lunayyir, he said.
“The Saudi National Seismic Network is capable of monitoring any seismic activity because the sensors used in the network are broadband and are capable of recording all types of quakes, ranging from micro tremors to huge-intensity earthquakes,” he said. “There are currently almost 150 seismic stations. We are planning to reach the 200-mark, which will cover the whole country.”
“Numerous earthquakes occur near the boundary between the Arabian plate and the surrounding tectonic plates,” he said.
Apart from seismicity along the axis of the Red Sea and along the Gulf of Aqaba and Aden, considerable activity occurs along the Dead Sea transform fault system.
A 5.1-magnitude earthquake struck the southwestern part of the Kingdom, centering on Jazan, earlier this year. Its impact was felt by inhabitants in the Asir and Najran regions, according to the SGS and postings on social networking sites.
A number of small earthquakes struck western Saudi Arabia last year. In fact, over 30,000 minor quakes took place between April and June 2009 within an ancient solidified lava field called the “Harrat Lunayyir,” which damaged buildings near Al-Ais.
This prompted authorities to evacuate 40,000 residents from the region at the time. The SGS is also working on many other projects related to geological mapping, mineral exploration, environment geology and hydrogeology.

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