* This story is from 2011. Please visit this page for updates on the story about the aftershocks of the 6.2-magnitude earthquake in southwest Iran that are being felt across the UAE.
DUBAI // Residents were alarmed early yesterday morning by tremors emanating from a 7.1 magnitude earthquake centered in Pakistan.
The initial shock occurred at 12.23am and was followed by a series of aftershocks, according to the UAE’s National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology. The quake was felt in Al Ain, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, even though they lie some 900 kilometers from the epicentre in remote Baluchistan province.
“I was watching a film when all of a sudden I noticed something was shaking the windows and the furniture began to rattle,” said Tahir Iqbal, a 29-year-old graphic designer who lives in Dubai. “This went on for about a minute. I didn’t know what was happening at first.”
The Pakistani expatriate, who has family living in Lahore, said he immediately switched to the news channels and went online to find out what was happening.
“Thankfully, everyone back home is safe, but I’m worried for the people close to the epicentre,” he said.
Baluchistan, located near the Iranian and Afghan borders, is the country’s most sparsely populated region. The town closest to the quake’s epicentre –34 miles from it – is called Dalbandin. It has a population of around 15,000 people.
“We don’t currently have the numbers of people on the ground in Baluchistan to give an accurate assessment of the damage,” said Patrick Fuller, who is with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “However, reports coming out of the Pakistani government are saying that it has not effected high density-populated areas.”
Those in the Emirates had all manner of concerns when their residences began to vibrate. Gemma Smith, a 24-year-old Briton who lives in Dubai, initially thought a burglary was in progress.
“I’m a light sleeper, so when the windows started to shake at first I thought someone was trying to get into my apartment,” said the IT worker. “When I realised it wasn’t, I got out of bed and looked outside to see what was going on but didn’t see anything. I checked the TV and the news was reporting that there had been an earthquake in Pakistan.”
Others, uncertain about what was going, ran into the streets.
“It was a really horrible feeling, because at one moment I was watching TV and then I felt dizzy and it looked like the walls were moving,” said Sihan Bengrine, a 29-year-old Moroccan expat who lives in Ajman. “It was very noisy. It sounded like an underground train and everything was shaking.
“I could see a lot of people outside and on the roads. They looked very frightened, and didn’t go back inside for a few hours.”
Many Emirates residents took to Twitter and Facebook to report their experiences, with some describing the experience as otherworldly.
“Tremors from Pakistan earthquake felt in the UAE last night. Such a freaky feeling,” Peirreewards tweeted.
“There was an earthquake in Pakistan yesterday which sent a strong wave of panic in the UAE,” said Trueblue_4 Life. “I felt the ground shaking!! I was so scared!!”
While local authorities reported no damage from the tremors, details from Pakistan were scarce. There was no immediate report of damage in Quetta, Baluchistan’s capital, which is some 320km southwest of the epicentre. Earthquake experts in the Emirates were breathing a sigh of relief.
“We were very lucky to experience no damage after such a high-magnitude and deep earthquake,” said Mr Khamis al Shamsi, the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology’s senior earthquake engineer.
He said the Gulf was surrounded by “a very active area” for earthquakes, including Iran, which was struck by a deadly 6.3 magnitude temblor in December.