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EARTHQUAKES No imminent threat to UAE.

Dubai The major earthquakes occurring not far from the UAE, in Iran, have often raised questions as to whether it is only a matter of time until the country suffers a similar occurrence.

According to the Encyclopedia Iranica, earthquakes in Iran in the 20th century alone have resulted in 126,000 deaths. Sitting on multiple fault lines, the country faces earthquakes daily.

Iran-style earthquakes, however, are very unlikely to occur in the UAE, said a UAE-based geologist.

The earthquakes felt in the UAE are not caused by the same factors as those in Iran, said Dr Abdul Rahman Fowler, Associate Professor of Structural Geology and Tectonics at UAE University.

"Imagine when the car crashes into a wall, you'll find that where the car hits the wall there's a lot of damage, but if you look at the car you might find broken window at the back. That is because there were some effects of a collision that were felt at a greater distance away," he said.

In the area where there is a maximum amount of material being pushed aside, right at the edge of the plate, that's where the most earthquakes occur, said Dr Fowler, explaining why Iran often experiences quakes.

Stresses become weaker and weaker the further they get from the edge. "Here we're in a much safer location. We don't have any direct tectonic stress effects," he said, adding that while bigger earthquakes were possible, they were very unlikely.

"There's no reason for the stresses to rise enough for them to result in a big quake. The stresses are transmitted, but before they build up they just result in lots of smaller quakes, unlike in Iran, where there is so much material that needs to be moved around."

In March, Kuwaiti seismologist Dr Faryal Bu Rabee', warned that a major earthquake in Iran is imminent, and would have devastating consequences for Gulf Arab states.

The epicentre of the earthquake would be Kerman province in south central Iran, which is north of Oman and the UAE, or Makran, the coastal strip between Iran and Pakistan on the northern Arabian Sea, north-east of Oman.

The last earthquake in the Sea of Oman, between Iran and Oman, was a 4.3 magnitude earthquake on Nov-ember 24, 2005. It occurred off the coast of Iran.


She said her calculations were based on "scientific and historical factors", according to the report, adding that the tremor's magnitude was likely to reach eight on the Richter scale. Questioning the readiness of Gulf states in dealing with such situations, she said the earthquake could result in a tsunami.

Other scientists, however, have said a tsunami in the Gulf is unlikely since it is not deep enough. Iran also has a Sea of Oman coast which opens to the larger and deeper Arabian Sea where tsunamis have been recorded in the past. The last earthquake to hit the Gulf was in February 2008, measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale, was 10 kilometres deep, approximately 200 to 250 kilometres from Doha, Manama, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Dr Fowler said that any earthquake occurring in southern Iran, "from the Zagros Mountains to the Makran coast", can have an effect on the UAE and the Gulf Arab states, but it is not likely to be severe.

"Also, on the Indian ocean coastline, the shelf deepens quickly. The configuration of the shelf is not suitable for the development of a tsunami," he said.

On November 28, 1945, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake hit the northern Arabian Sea 100 kilometres south of Makran, resulting in a tsunami that reached as far as Karachi and Mumbai.

According to research on the Makran quake and tsunami conducted by Hawaii-based researcher George Pararas-Carayannis, the tsunami caused 13-metre waves on the Markan coast, and 11-metre waves on the Gujarat, India coast.

The earthquake and tsunami killed 4,000 people on the Makran coast.

Fowler said because earthquake activity in the country is not frequent and not at a high magnitude, it would take significantly longer to determine seismic trends in the UAE compared to countries with more earthquake activity.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Jun 17, 2011
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