x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

New stations find three areas of seismic activity

But no need to worry - most earthquakes in the UAE are too fain even to be felt.

DUBAI // New seismic-detection stations have helped to find three areas of frequent earthquake activity in the UAE.

But experts say the activity is harmless.

The geodetic and hydrographic survey department of Dubai Municipality installed five new seismic stations in the past six months, bringing the number of stations in the emirate to nine.

"We've detected three clusters of seismic activity, all in the eastern part of the UAE," said Dr Kamal Atiya, chief seismology analyst at the section.

"The first cluster is in Murgham but we determined that it was due to the natural gas station in the area, which forces pressure fluctuations to pump out the gas."

The other two areas are in the towns of Masafi and Al Huwaylat.

"They were respective epicentres of earthquakes on March 10 and September 13 of 2007," Dr Atiya said.

"An American study of those events concluded that there might be a small fracture in the Arabian Plate under those two locations, which is causing the seismic activity.

"There is very low seismic activity in the UAE and the earthquakes we get are minor, including the ones in those two clusters. Most of them can't even be felt. So there is no cause for concern."

Eman Al Falasi, head of the survey section, said the seismic detection stations were installed because data from other government organisations was not accurate enough.

"You have to surround the area to get accurate data, otherwise all you get is a direction rather than a location," Ms Al Falasi said.

Recently, her section completed the compilation of seismic data from historical records to provide a history of seismic activity in the UAE dating back to 184BC.

The records reflect a rapid rise in seismic activity in the country, which Dr Atiya said was entirely normal.

"These results don't mean that we are having more earthquakes," he said. "It just means we are better at detecting them. This … has probably been happening for hundreds of years. We just haven't noticed."

Within the next two years, the data Dr Atiya and his team collect about structures, buildings and population dispersion will be used to create emergency response scenarios.

"This enables the Government to have proper emergency procedures and coordinate resources accurately should we ever face such a situation," Dr Atiya said.