(MENAFN - Arab News) Saudi Arabia will set up an additional 50 advanced earthquake monitoring stations soon, said Hani M. Zahran, director of the National Center for Earthquake & Volcanoes at the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS), on Wednesday.
"The Kingdom already has 150 earthquake monitoring stations called the Saudi National Seismic Network (SNSN), and the new ones will boost our capability by providing precise data collection," he told Arab News.
The Kingdom is "capable of monitoring any seismic activity" with its advanced network of earthquake monitoring stations, said Zahran, when asked about the future plans of the SGS to help reduce damage to life and property, in the event of an earthquake in the Kingdom or adjoining countries. Recently, people in Saudi Arabia and in the UAE panicked when an earthquake hit southern Iran.
Another earthquake rattled a region near Iran's main nuclear reactor, but there were no reports of damage or fatalities in the surrounding areas because of the moderate intensity. Such quakes are, in fact, a threat to the Gulf countries including the Kingdom. "Hence, the plan to boost the local capacity by setting up new earthquake monitoring stations to determine the location, duration and magnitude of an earthquake on the Richter scale," said another Saudi scientist, without giving his name.
He said that Saudi Arabia is "stepping up its research capabilities to pick up early signals of an impending earthquake by expanding the network of observatories to study the intricate processes that take place in seismically active zones. A string of observatories and laboratories are already in place across the Kingdom to monitor various earthquake precursory phenomena, he added.
According to an SGS report, the most active area in Saudi Arabia is along the Gulf of Aqaba (Dead Sea transform fault), where the left lateral movement relative to Sinai is 4 to 5 mm per year. This region of the Gulf has active sinistral transform faults with associated pull-apart basins (the deeps in the Gulf of Aqaba), and hence is an area where earthquakes of great magnitude occur quite regularly, it noted.
The last major event was the 1995 Haql earthquake in the Gulf of Aqaba (magnitude 7.3) which caused significant damage on both sides of the Gulf and was felt hundreds of kilometers away. "Earthquakes of magnitude 6 are common along the spreading axis of the Red Sea but they are generally not felt onshore and appear to pose little risk to infrastructure," the report said.
Referring to the advanced network of 150 earthquake monitoring stations in the Kingdom, the report said that most of them are located in western Saudi Arabia, where most of the seismicity occurs. Data from remote sites are transmitted via satellite to the SGS processing center in Jeddah and satellite channel usage is managed via commands from the SGS seismic center, said the report, adding that "the risk of damage from earthquakes is quite low over most of Saudi Arabia."
The SGS's National Center for Earthquakes and Volcanoes is a state-owned body entrusted with the task to maintain, monitor and report seismic activity in the Kingdom and the surrounding region. The main functions of the center are maintenance, expansion and upgrading of the SNSN. The center also prepares seismic zonation maps and prepares risk or hazard maps for the Kingdom.