Quake tremors jolt Dammam, Alkhobar

Updated 13 April 2013

Quake tremors jolt Dammam, Alkhobar

The effects of an earthquake in Iran were felt in Dammam, Alkhobar and other parts of the Eastern Province yesterday afternoon.
However, the Saudi Geological Survey said the aftershocks were mild and did not cause any damage.
Tarek Abal Khail, spokesman of SGS, said the Iranian quake took place 240 km from Jubail, 290 km from Dammam and 280 km from Alkhobar.
“There were five aftershocks and each one of them was lesser than the previous ones in intensity,” he said.
Panicked residents and office workers streamed out of their homes and commercial towers as buildings shook for 10 to 15 seconds.
Col. Ali Al-Qahtani, a Civil Defense spokesman in Dammam, confirmed that there was no loss of life or injuries. “But, yes, everyone experienced the shaking of buildings,” he said. “We immediately activated our emergency response system.”
Eastern Province Gov. Prince Saud bin Naif and Deputy Gov. Prince Jalawi issued instructions to all government departments to stay alert.
“We clearly felt the tremors,” said Azzam Al-Amr, an Alkhobar resident. “The building just shook.”
Faisal Al-Asmari said he experienced mild tremors in nearby Ras Tanura.
Arab News received a number of messages from harried citizens and expatriates.
“At 3 p.m., our office in Ababtain Tower started to shake,” said Syed Qadeer. “We ran out using the staircase and saw most of the people crowding outside,” he said in his post on Arab News’ Facebook page.
There were similar scenes outside prominent Alkhobar landmarks such as the Habitat building.
The epicenter of the quake was in Iran.
The magnitude 6.3 quake struck 89 km southeast of the port city of Bushehr at 11:52 GMT at a depth of 10 km. BBC Middle East reported that 37 people were killed and 850 injured in south-west Iran. The nearby nuclear power station was not affected, Iranian officials were quoted as saying.
Parvez Naushahi, general manager at Ground Engineering Contractors (GEC) in Alkhobar, drew the media’s attention to the consequences of tectonic activities across the Gulf region.
“As foundation and geotech specialists, we have noticed that people are not considering the geological realities of medium-range earthquakes that can occur in and around the Gulf region,” he said. “Developments near the seashore in the Eastern Province are prone to liquefaction of foundation soil.”
He said: “If building foundations are constructed without proper engineering analysis, which may require good ground improvement, the soil will liquefy under earthquake stresses, it will become like liquid, and foundations will fail.”


New Saudi rules on hookah leave businesses, consumers confused

Arab News visited different restaurants in the town and found a few serving hookahs. (AP/File)
Updated 8 min 3 sec ago

New Saudi rules on hookah leave businesses, consumers confused

  • Manal Jafar: Everywhere in our city is polluted with smoke, you can hardly find a restaurant where you can safely take your kids

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Rural and Municipal Affairs has imposed new regulations on restaurants and cafes serving hookah. Although many were disappointed following the announcement to allow hookah inside cities, businesses were shocked to know about the fees imposed on them. Nonsmokers have also raised their concerns after they realized that bills will rise by 100 percent if they visit a restaurant that serves hookah.
Arab News visited different restaurants in the town and found a few serving hookahs. Some said that they will still serve it, but will not charge customers any extra fees.
Meanwhile, a trending hashtag in Saudi Arabia addressed the issue of fees on tobacco, with some customers sharing their bills online.
Michel Abou Assaly, director of operations at Shababik Restaurant in Jeddah, said that when they first found out about the new law they were surprised: “We were obliged to stop serving hookah and we had to send all our employees at the shisha department on a short leave until things became clearer.” He added they did not want their customers to pay double the price for the same product. He anticipates a 40 percent drop in sales.
“Thousands of restaurants and cafes will close down and at least 100,000 families will be affected,” Assaly said. He added that investors should ask the ministry to reconsider this law.
Halima Muthaffar, a writer, said that although she hates the smell of tobacco, she still sees this as an unfair decision. She added that it is not the right time, especially as Saudi Arabia is opening up for tourists.

FASTFACT

• The use of tobacco is expected to cost the Saudi economy SR480 billion ($128 billion) for the period 2018-2030.

• Authorities hope to reduce tobacco consumption in the Kingdom to 5 percent by 2030.

• The annual fee for the license to serve tobacco ranges from SR5,000 to SR100,000.

• Fees for licensing tobacco during events range from SR600 to SR3,000.

• 100 percent of fees are imposed on all bills of restaurants and cafes serving tobacco.

Columnist Gassan Badkook said that the authorities will reconsider the way these fees are being calculated. He said that three groups will be negatively affected: Nonsmokers, who will have to pay fees for a product they do not use, investors who might close their businesses and employees who might lose their jobs.
Manal Jafar said she agrees with the fees: “A restaurant should serve food only. Everywhere in our city is polluted with smoke, you can hardly find a restaurant where you can safely take your kids.”
Mohammad bin Hamad said he rarely goes to a restaurant with his family, but they never ask for hookah. “Why should I pay 100 percent fees on top of my bill? We should wait for a few months, many restaurants will stop offering hookah because they will lose so many customers.”