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No earthquakes in UAE, buildings safe


No earthquakes in UAE, buildings safe

The Dubai Municipality officials reiterated that Dubai residents, especially those living in high-rises, do not have to be concerned about the safety of the buildings.


 The municipality has reiterated that Dubai residents, especially those living in high-rises, do not have to be concerned about the safety of the buildings. —KT file photo used for illustrative purposes

Dubai/Abu Dhabi - UAE residents need not worry. An earthquake is unlikely to strike these parts. And even if it does, buildings in Dubai are strong enough to withstand quakes of upto 5.9 magnitude. Officials said that even if quakes do happen here, chances are very, very low. “Sources in the Masafi region in the Northern parts of UAE have a potential of maximum 3-3.5 magnitude, they said.

The Dubai Municipality officials reiterated that Dubai residents, especially those living in high-rises, do not have to be concerned about the safety of the buildings.

In May 2013, when tremors in Iran made towers in Dubai quiver and people ran out of their buildings, the civic body revised its seismic code to ensure all new buildings that come up in Dubai will be safer and stronger.

The new regulation made it mandatory for all new buildings to be as strong as Burj Khalifa in their ability to withstand tremors of up to 5.9 magnitude on the Richter Scale.

Officials from the Building Department said the code which existed prior to that was designed in such a way that all buildings had the capacity to withstand tremors of up to 5.2 magnitude. Studies have however, estimated that the maximum magnitude of the tremors that could strike here was 4.3 on the Richter Scale since Dubai does not lie on a fault line.

“Our existing code itself was very conservative and we are confident that all our buildings are very safe,” Moawya Zafarini, head of the structural engineering unit at the department then said.

“Though studies on the gravitational acceleration have suggested a maximum of 4.3 magnitude here, the current code is designed to withstand up to 5.2 in Richter scale, which is almost 10 times more powerful. Now, we want to ensure that our upcoming buildings are even stronger.”

Mohamed Mashroom, director of the Survey Department that runs the Seismic Network of the municipality, had earlier said: “Larger (seismic) events that have taken place within Iranian borders have had little effect on Dubai due to the far distance between these sources and Dubai.”

He had said all parts of the UAE are not exposed to any historical or recent damaging earthquakes and assured the public that the Municipality applies very safe Seismic Code for all buildings.

Revised code

As per the revised code, buildings taller than 10 floors as well as schools and hospitals are classified in Zone 2B — Dubai’s most iconic Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab come under this category.

Last month, officials also revealed that different authorities are working on structural health monitoring of major high-rises that will help analyse the impact of tremors and execute accurate emergency preparedness plans.

Sensors installed in the monitoring system will help provide red-yellow-green alarms for the onsite security team to take appropriate action. An instantaneous email with the building response status can be sent to designated officials to support their emergency response planning decision.

The system alerts and reports help the safety team decide how and when to evacuate the building and the subsequent decision on when to reoccupy.

In addition, the system will help avoid unnecessary evacuation such as what took place during the April 2013 incidents.

No major seismic sources

To ease people’s fears of an earthquake the magnitude of the one that leveled Nepal striking here in the desert, Khaleej Times spoke to Khamis Al Shamsi, Acting Head of Seismology at National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) in Abu Dhabi. He said: the UAE has nothing to worry about. “We don’t have any major seismic sources,” he said. The ones that we can lay claim to are “very, very low sources in the Masafi region in the Northern parts of UAE that have a potential of maximum 3-3.5 magnitude.”

He explains that the Nepal quake was a “shallow-focus” one — with 4km depth, according to NCMS reports. A shallow quake causes more destruction on the surface than a semi-deep or deep-focus quake. “If Nepal had had a deep quake, the effects may not have been so bad,” he says.

But what about the quake felt two years ago on an afternoon in April 2013? “Yes, that one had its epicentre in the Makran region in the south of Pakistan”

Al Shamsi says: “In the UAE we don’t have to worry because we have a high quality building code, and our structures are strong, built with high quality materials.” He said even though that is a matter of engineering there is a Municipality law that states clearly the building requirements.

While talking about the minimal chances of quakes striking these parts, Al Shamsi also addressed chances of other natural disasters occuring here. What about Tsunamis? Is it true that the UAE and even larger areas in the gulf are safe from both these furies of nature? “Yes, the Arabian tectonic plates are very small as compared to the ones in the Pacific ocean, in areas such as Japan” said Al Shamsi. Added to that, the waters in the Arabian Gulf are shallow, between 50-75 meters, Al Shamsi estimates “unlike the deep waters of the Pacific”.

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