Emergency quake shelter sites selected

Updated 03 May 2014
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Emergency quake shelter sites selected

Saudi Arabia has finalized plans to build life-saving emergency earthquake shelters following warnings of an ever-increasing number of large-magnitude earthquakes that can hit different countries and regions across the globe, including the Middle East.
The Saudi Geological Survey (SGS), the state-owned body responsible for monitoring seismic activity, is working closely with the Civil Defense Department on the project.
“The SGS has selected many emergency shelter sites in different regions of the Kingdom, including Madinah, Yanbu, and Haradh,” Zohair A. Nawab, SGS president, said Saturday.
In his interview, Nawab also spoke about the Kingdom’s readiness to cope with any disaster, especially earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. The SGS is planning to select sites for emergency shelters in many other Saudi cities along the country’s Western region, where the level of seismic activity is high, he said.
“The idea to build special shelters was first conceived after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Iran,” said Nawab, and added that new seismograph stations with state-of-the-art equipment are being installed by SGS in the Kingdom so that the quality of data and information on earthquake parameters can be improved. He pointed out that the SGS is now responsible for all earthquake-monitoring stations and the monitoring of seismic activity in the country.
Nawab said that most of the stations are currently concentrated in the Western Province.
They are located in the north of Yanbu in the area of Harrat Lunayyir, he said.
“The Saudi National Seismic Network is capable of monitoring any seismic activity because the sensors used in the network are broadband and are capable of recording all types of quakes, ranging from micro tremors to huge-intensity earthquakes,” he said. “There are currently almost 150 seismic stations. We are planning to reach the 200-mark, which will cover the whole country.”
“Numerous earthquakes occur near the boundary between the Arabian plate and the surrounding tectonic plates,” he said.
Apart from seismicity along the axis of the Red Sea and along the Gulf of Aqaba and Aden, considerable activity occurs along the Dead Sea transform fault system.
A 5.1-magnitude earthquake struck the southwestern part of the Kingdom, centering on Jazan, earlier this year. Its impact was felt by inhabitants in the Asir and Najran regions, according to the SGS and postings on social networking sites.
A number of small earthquakes struck western Saudi Arabia last year. In fact, over 30,000 minor quakes took place between April and June 2009 within an ancient solidified lava field called the “Harrat Lunayyir,” which damaged buildings near Al-Ais.
This prompted authorities to evacuate 40,000 residents from the region at the time. The SGS is also working on many other projects related to geological mapping, mineral exploration, environment geology and hydrogeology.


Hajj pilgrims praise Saudi support at Dhaka airport

Updated 7 min 12 sec ago
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Hajj pilgrims praise Saudi support at Dhaka airport

  • Seventy immigration officials from Saudi Arabia are currently in Dhaka to accomplish pilgrims’ immigration tasks
  • At the airport, Saudi authorities have established 15 booths to serve pilgrims, who have to record 10-finger impressions in the Kingdom’s immigration database

DHAKA: Pre-immigration facilities provided by Saudi Arabia for Hajj pilgrims in Bangladesh have helped reduce waiting times by several hours after their arrival at airports in the Kingdom, several of them said on Wednesday.
The program is part of Saudi Arabia’s Road to Makkah initiative, whereby pilgrims can complete immigration at airports in their home country instead of doing it on arrival in the Kingdom.
From this year, Bangladeshi pilgrims are enjoying pre-immigration facilities at Dhaka airport.
“Among the 127,000 Bangladeshi pilgrims, this year 60,500 of them will have the opportunity to complete the immigration formalities at Dhaka airport,” Bangladeshi Religious Affairs Secretary Anisur Rahman told Arab News.
“From next year, all Bangladeshi pilgrims will enjoy this pre-immigration system at Dhaka airport.”
Seventy immigration officials from Saudi Arabia are currently in Dhaka to accomplish pilgrims’ immigration tasks. Three Saudi organizations are working at Dhaka airport to accomplish these tasks.
At the airport, Saudi authorities have established 15 booths to serve pilgrims, who have to record 10-finger impressions in the Kingdom’s immigration database.
In addition, at the immigration counter officials take photographs of the pilgrims, Rahman said.
“The pre-immigration system was supposed to be launched from the first Hajj flight on July 4, but due to technical issues we couldn’t do that on the first day. However, things are now running very smoothly,” he added.
Abdul Kayum Bepari, a Bangladeshi pilgrim who completed his Saudi immigration formalities at Dhaka airport, told Arab News: “It’s an amazing experience. All immigration formalities were completed within a minute. When I performed Hajj in 2011, it took more than four hours for me to complete the immigration formalities at the Saudi airport.”
Bangladeshi pilgrim Sadek Ali told Arab News: “Everything is very disciplined. This pre-immigration system has truly eased the hassle of thousands of Bangladeshi pilgrims.”
Pilgrim Bulbuli Begum told Arab News: “My Saudi immigration formalities took only a few seconds to be completed.”
Pre-immigration support for Bangladeshi pilgrims will continue until the last Hajj flight, which is scheduled on Aug. 5.
“We’re trying to ensure maximum support and comfort to the pilgrims,” said a Saudi immigration official at Dhaka airport.
“They don’t even need to worry about luggage. Once the pilgrims land at a Saudi airport, they’ll immediately board hotel-bound buses and will receive their luggage at the hotel.”