Both Arab News and Saudi Gazette report on increased seismic activity in the Al-Ais region of northwestern Saudi Arabia. According to Saudi Gazette, Saudi geologists have determined that magma has risen 1,000 meters overnight and is not just three kilometers below the surface. Greater earthquake activity—now registering in the low 4s of the Richter Scale–is now being felt in Yanbu, 140 km to the southwest of Al-Ais. The earthquakes are causing villagers to panic, some of whom are now asking for evacuation. Civil Defense has not yet imposed mandatory evacuation orders, but it waiting for the situation to worsen further.
Evacuation begins as tremors continue
Muhammad Talib Al-Ahmadi
AL-EIS – Local residents have become increasingly alarmed after experiencing the biggest tremor thus far registering 4.15 on the Richter scale early Thursday following ten successive tremors, some of which were felt for the first time as far as Yanbu located 150 km from Al-Eis.
After the tremor, a voluntary evacuation operation began in which three families from Al-Qarrassah village were taken to a shelter camp, 45 km from Al-Eis.
Maj. Gen. Saleh Al-Muhawwis, Director General of Civil Defense in Madina Region, said the families that wanted to be transported to the shelter camp have been taken there. He said the forced evacuation stage would not begin until there were indications of great danger.
Arab News reports on the increased activity as well, of course. Its coverage carries a quote by Egyptian-American scientist Farouk El-Baz, currently Director of the Center for Remote Sensing and a research scientist at Boston University. El-Baz believes that the seismic activity is normal and nothing to be worried about.
Rumblings from Al-Ais volcanoes send villagers into state of panic
Yousuf Muhammad | Arab News
MADINAH: Rumblings from the direction of extinct volcanoes in Al-Ais, which was hit by a series of tremors over the last couple of weeks, sent villagers in the area into a state of near panic in the early hours of yesterday.
“Most of the local people spent the night in a state of extreme anxiety when a thunder-like rumble was heard,” one worried resident told Arab News yesterday.
Despite repeated reassurances from the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS) that there was nothing to worry about, the provincial branch of the Civil Defense is battle-ready with personnel and equipment to face any eventuality. Civil Defense teams have been patrolling villages where tremors were experienced to reassure people. The teams are also checking the safety of buildings in the region.
… “The tremors experienced in some villages in Madinah province are normal and not dangerous. It is normal underground movement along a fault line,” said Farooq Al-Baz, director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University.
Now, I’m most assuredly not a geologist nor an award-winning physicist. I’m not qualified to say that El-Baz is wrong, but I believe he is wrong.
As I’ve said earlier, it is entirely possible that the current activity will fizzle out to nothing more than has already happened. I think, however, that as Saudi volcanoes have not erupted recently, there is not a terribly good body of data to assess exactly what is going on now. I think it prudent to prepare for the worst in this instance.