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Earthquakes in Saudi Arabia – rumbles and rumours 19 May 2009

Posted by admin in activity reports.
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There have been various reports over the past couple of weeks of earthquakes in western Saudi Arabia, possibly with some volcanic component. Some of the news reports are listed below. Significant earthquakes are clearly taking place: there are reports of structural damage, people fleeing their homes, and confusing references to ‘magma moving’.

Dr Erik Klemetti at Eruptions is doing a superb job of putting together all the information he can (including reports, via his comments columns, from people who are on the spot) and trying to make sense of it. Check out his posts: An eruption brewing in Saudi Arabia? and the more recent Updates on the Saudi Arabian earthquakes.

UPDATE 20 May 2009: Dr Erik Klemetti’s latest post on the Saudi Arabian earthquakes is here. This morning (this post is published at 07:38 UTC) the USGS is listing six earthquakes in the area occurring between 19:50 UTC on 17 May and 20:35 UTC on 19 May: the largest is a magnitude 5.7 event at 17:35 UTC on 19 May. There are reports of large-scale evacuations and of aftershocks and ‘a large crack in the earth’, and unconfirmed accounts of gas emissions, ‘smoke’, and changes in well water – all very suggestive, but there is a lack of hard evidence. Dr Klemetti notes:

So, we don’t really know much else about what is going on that we didn’t know a few days ago. Earthquake appear to be continuing. Rumors of smoke, pungent odors, changes in well water. Evacuations. These items, taken at face value, would suggest an eruption is imminent, however, right now, all I can do is say that things are definitely getting interesting in Saudi Arabia right now.

More news links have been added to the list below, which I will keep updating as new information comes in. Knowing no Arabic, however, I’m limited to English-language sources.

Google Earth users can find the earthquake locations using KML files available from the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program site. The Saudi earthquakes are listed on this USGS page: clicking on the date for a particular event will take you to a range of tabs giving further information. The ‘maps’ tab includes a link labelled ‘Google Earth KML’ which will open Google Earth and take you to the location for that earthquake. Over at Eruptions Dr Klemetti has published a Google Earth map of the earthquakes so far, and has interesting observations on the Harrat Lunayyir lava field where they are located.

P.S. An American blogger in Saudi Arabia samples local opinion on the earthquakes here. Another Saudi-focused blog covering the earthquakes is here (most recent post here). And CNN notices something is happening here.

UPDATE 21 May 2009. A report in Arab News says that a total of 2,289 people have been evacuated from villages in Al-Ais:

The evacuations took place as 30 tremors of varying magnitudes — measuring between 3 and 5.4 on the Richter scale — were registered at Harrah Al-Shaqah in the Al-Ais area during the 24 hours ending 2 p.m. yesterday, the Saudi Geological Survey reported. … The Civil Defense has warned people living within a radius of 40 km of Harrah Al-Shaqah, the quake’s epicenter, to keep away. The warning was issued following the discovery of dangerous gases and unusually hot air and water in wells as the frequency of tremors increased in Al-Ais. A Civil Defense source said the discoveries suggested a volcanic eruption was likely.

The USGS and Centre Sismologique Euro-Méditerranéen report no new quakes since the magnitude 4.6 event at 20:35 UTC on 19 May, but smaller quakes since then will not have been reported on these sites.

More recent updates here (The Volcanism Blog) and here (Eruptions).

1,200 mild tremors felt in MedinaKhaleej Times Online, 4 May 2009
Tremors continue to shake Al-Eis regionSaudi Gazette, 14 May 2009
Evacuation begins as tremors continueSaudi Gazette, 15 May 2009
Rumblings from Al-Ais volcanoes send villagers into a state of panicArab News, 15 May 2009
More tremors jolt Al-AisArab News, 16 May 2009
Saudi Arabia evacuates 5 villages in volcano scare – Reuters India, 19 May 2009
40% of Al-Eis residents flee from earth tremorsSaudi Gazette, 19 May 2009
Residents told to leave Al-Eis amid stronger tremorsSaudi Gazette, 20 May 2009
Aftershocks rock Al-AisArab News, 20 May 2009
Evacuation called as another quake hits SaudiBusiness Maktoob, 20 May 2009
Two tremors hit Saudi volcano region, no injuries – Reuters India, 21 May 2009
Earthquake hits Saudi villagesTimes of India, 20 May 2009
Saudi prepares fresh evacuation from volcano zone – Reuters AlertNet, 20 May 2009
Earthquake hits Saudi villages – PR-inside.com, 20 May 2009
Saudi earthquake zone evacuated after spate of strong tremors – Dow Jones Newswires, 20 May 2009
Volcanic tremors recorded in Saudi Arabia – Radio New Zealand, 21 May 2009
Villagers flee Saudi quake zone after spate of tremors – Inside the Gulf, 21 May 2009
Saudi volcanic eruption ‘imminent’Business Maktoob, 21 May 2009
Saudi Geological Survey explains Al-Ais tremors – BERNAMA, 21 May 2009
Madinah governor tours quake-prone Al-AisArab News, 22 May 2009

Global Volcanism Program: Arabia – information from the GVP about the volcanoes of Arabia
Volcanic Arabia – a detailed and well illustrated article from Saudi Aramco World, 2006, on Arabian volcanism

The Volcanism Blog


1. Thomas Donlon - 19 May 2009


They just had a 5.6 quake there in the last hour. And there are several more recent strong quakes that also took place earlier today. In order to see the quakes behind this one click the option under earthquake lists for “List of Earthquakes on this Map”

2. Alsharif - 21 May 2009

earhquakes will teach saudi that they are on the wrong side of the road to humanity set by Mohammed, Jesuss, and Mosess. soon they will know that the end is near. The forth coming of Jesuss should now be the current issues that saudi should lookinto seriously. Can not deny the Truth.
Al sharif

3. Gap-toothed-Hijazi-girl - 21 May 2009

I don’t believe that Earthquake has anything to do with being wrong or right remember Mr. Alsharif that people who are living in small villages like Al- ais have not done anything bad to humanity they don’t even practise politics nor anything relative to it, they’re living a very simple way of life like many other people in Hijaz just to let you know western region in Saudi is the poorest yet most of it’s people are the kindest, they accept each other away from all Saudi strict customs and the reason behind it that from along time ago Hijaz was and still a mixture society so how would nature ( God, judgment.. you name it) would punish a group of Innocent people? silly idea if you ask me so please don’t mix this with that in order to prove something that only exist in your mind, this is normal change in our planet it happened many years ago and now it’s time for a little more change that’s all. i liked this blog alot thank you guys.

4. James- Jeddah - 23 May 2009

Hijazi, Youre right, we dont even judge saudi people of their wrong side. Me i am christian. We dont varries what would be our religion, As long as we have strong faith in God, And do good things for our list brothers and sisters we will be rewarded. God or Allah (in Islam) is Supreme and Powerful, And He can change everything. And we dont only focus about the religion. We have to be broad. We dont included Mohammed , Jesus & Moses, because their just a messiah that sent by God, to realized that their is God exist with us, to Guide and protect us.

5. jimmy ibrahim - 29 May 2009

jimmy ibrahim – abbu dhabi uae 29may2009
may Allah bless us all ,We are the slaves of Allah nobody can judge any man only in this world .Not only Saudi experiencing this situation but all parts of the world we have to put in our mind that this world will come to an end just like a man soon we will all taste death and this tremors is just like a reminder .Ihave experience in philippines eatrhquake is at 8.6 magnitude when i see people around me they are all praying seeking for forgiveness and be raedy for their death this is a reminder to all of us that all the messengers and warners are rigth.This is a reminder for all of us remembering Allah .amd why Saudi because they are true beleivers thats why it came to them to be more faithful to Allah .Allah love us all.All of this happening will be worst soon and why are we still doing wrong things . we have to abide all the commandments of Allah and soon we will get a reward not inthis world but for the coming of the second life .

6. Gilbet - 2 June 2009

Remember, an ancient book has described the events in the last days. (Luk 21:9-11). So what is happening around us has been expected for more than 2,000 years now.

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