x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

'Don't panic' calls as Iran earthquake tremors felt across UAE

Residents urged not to panic as buildings are evacuated after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Iran.

Buildings in Dubai Media City being evacuated following tremors from an earthquake in Iran earlier this month. Sarah Dea / The National
Buildings in Dubai Media City being evacuated following tremors from an earthquake in Iran earlier this month. Sarah Dea / The National

ABU DHABI // Tremors were felt across the UAE yesterday from a  7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Iran.

The impact here measured between 4 and 5 on the Richter scale, according to the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology.

“It was felt all over the UAE,” said Adel Kamal, a spokesman for the centre.

The quake epicentre was about 660 kilometres from the Northern Emirates, where it was felt most strongly.

Police in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Fujairah confirmed there were no injuries, crashes or damage as a result of the quake, but hundreds of people were evacuated from buildings. Many began fleeing while the ground was still shaking, using elevators instead of stairs and crowding outside. Some panicked and ran to exits, screaming.

Hundreds stood on street corners and pavements at Dubai Media City, waiting for the all-clear to return to their offices. Others took the opportunity to go home early.

At Dubai International Financial Centre, Mona Zahooruddin, who works for Emirates NBD in Gate Village, said: “The building started shaking. The plants and the computer screens were shaking and my chair was, too.

“Some people wanted to stay in the office, but we ... evacuated as quickly as possible.

“We do a fire drill every year and knew where to go outside to the evacuation point on the grass opposite to Emirates Towers.

“We were outside for about 15 minutes, but people seemed calm and knew the drill. There were lots of people standing outside.”
Opposite Khalidiyah Mall in Abu Dhabi, about 100 people stood outside their office and residential buildings.

Smitha Salian, an accounts manager, said: “I was in my chair and I felt it shaking. It’s quite scary.

“Some of my colleagues weren’t convinced they should leave the building but eventually relented and everyone came out together.”

The Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone was evacuated and employees were told to go home. The Higher Colleges of Technology in RAK was also evacuated.

It was the second earthquake to shake the Emirates in a week, with tremors being felt last Tuesday from a 6.2-magnitude quake in south-west Iran.

Dr Jamal Al Hosani, the director of information and communications technology for the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, yesterday warned the public to prepare themselves for all types of emergencies.

“Today we’re focusing on earthquakes but, believe it or not, earthquakes are one of the lesser concerns,” he said. “I cannot stress enough on being educated about what to do in any emergency.”

Fire and the risk of children falling from high-rise buildings are bigger safety concerns than earthquakes, he added.

“There’s a lot of threats in high-rises and if you decide to live in a high-rise to have the nice scenery, you should worry about how to live in a high-rise,” he said.

He urged the landlords of older buildings to “at least” upgrade their safety through thorough renovations.

Dr Al Hosani said all businesses and schools should have an evacuation plan prepared.

Teachers have “dual responsibilities” to educate children about emergency safety and train themselves in emergency response.

Dr Abdullah Shanableh, who is in charge of the University of Sharjah Seismic Station, said residents should not worry too much about yesterday’s quake.

“It’s a major earthquake but fortunately it’s far away from us – 750km is too far away to have a serious impact,” he said.

Panic was “natural behaviour”, he added, but guidelines should be set out so the public knew how to respond and act in a calm, responsible manner.

“We have to highlight the need to educate people what to do in earthquakes,” he said.

Dr Shanableh warned last week that panic was “more dangerous than the seismic risk itself”.

If there is an earthquake, it is advised you drop to the ground and take cover under strong furniture, such as a table. Hold on, cover your head and neck and wait until the shaking has stopped before you exit the building. Moving during a quake increase your risk of injury.

Calmly evacuate using the staircase and go to an open area away from buildings and power lines.

azacharias@thenational.ae