Thousands evacuated as tremors hit UAE

UPDATE 3: High-rises on Sheikh Zayed Road evacuated, tremors measure 4.8.
Thousands evacuated as tremors hit UAE
By Andrew Sambidge and Dylan Bowman
Wed 10 Sep 2008 03:10 PM

Thousands of people have been evacuated from high-rise towers across Dubai after an earthquake tremor hit the UAE on Wednesday.

The quake's epicentre, measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale, was in southern Iran about 316km from Abu Dhabi, but strong tremors were felt in the UAE.

State news agency WAM said the tremors were felt most strongly in the Northern Emirates, with the aftershock measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale.

Buildings all along Sheikh Zayed Road were evacuated after the tremor struck at around 3.00pm, with crowds of confused people flooding out into the street.

Several buildings in Dubai Media City (DMC) were also evacuated.

Eyewitnesses have described frantic scenes as people rushed for the exits as buildings swayed from side to side.

"The whole office was swaying for about five minutes. No one knew what was happening. It was very scary," one employee working on the 54th floor of Park Place on Sheikh Zayed Road told Arabian Business just minutes after the tremor.

An employee who was evacuated from nearby Al Moosa Tower added: "I was sitting at my desk and the ceiling started to make a funny noise. I thought I was having a dizzy spell and then me and my colleagues realised it was a tremor and we were evacuated."

A spokeswoman for the Shangri-La Hotel, one of several five-star hotels on Sheikh Zayed Road, added: "We felt a slight tremor but on the advice of the hotel manager there was no worry for our guests so it was decided it would be safe to stay in the hotel.

"We felt it shake inside the hotel and one of our guests called us but we told them it was safe."

An official at the National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) in Abu Dhabi said it is common for tremors from earthquakes in Iran to be felt in the UAE, but that they did not pose a danger.

"We will feel tremors from time to time, but people should not panic as there is nothing to worry about," he told Arabian Business.

Workers began returning to their offices at around 3.30pm.

The last major earthquake to hit the UAE was in November 2005. The earthquake, which measured 5.9 on the Richter scale, struck Qeshm Island off Iran’s southern coastline and was the strongest to hit the Gulf state in over 100 years. It killed ten people and damaged four villages.

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