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Saudi Arabian earthquake update for 5/19/2009

Conflicting reports are floating around about the earthquakes in Saudi Arabia, some claiming that cracks have formed in the land near Al-Ais and smoke has been seen coming from them. However, this is not confirmed – but things continue to shake.

Al-Qider volcano in western Saudi Arabia. Image courtesy of Ahmed Al-Hussaini

The intense seismicity occurring underneath the Al-Eis region in Saudi Arabia has reached a point where Saudi Arabian officials are requiring 60,000 people who live in the region to evacuate. This is after M4.6 and M5.4 earthquakes that occurred Tuesday night (Saudi time). Saudi officials have also begun to build shelters for people affected by the earthquakes.

Now, the direct connection to a potential eruption is still very much in the air, but the earthquakes are still centered underneath known Holocene volcanic vents. The article from the Saudi Gazette mentions “reports of toxic gas emissions and change of the color of well waters have not been confirmed.” We’ve been getting comments like that here as well, but no corroboration from Saudi officials or the SGS.

However, reports in the Arab News suggest something volcanic might be brewing:

An SGS team that is conducting an aerial survey of the quake-hit area found a large crack in the earth and opened a quake detection station at Harrah Al-Shaqah.


The Civil Defense warned people in Al-Ais and its surrounding villages to avoid areas where smoke is coming out of the ground as such areas are more likely to see volcanic eruptions. It also said that rumblings and pungent smells are indications of possible eruptions.

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.

The earthquake swarm underneath Harrat Lunayyir in Saudi Arabia appears to be subsiding and officials say people may be able to return to their homes by the end of the week. What might be happening under the Saudi Arabian volcanic field?

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