Managing Earthquake Disasters in Yemen [Archives:1997/51/Reportage]

December 22 1997

Ismail Al-Ghabiri, Yemen Times
Seminar on Natural Disasters The National Seminar on Disaster Preparedness and Management was held on December 13, in Dhamar with the participation of several experts in this field. The seminar was organized by the Seismological Observatory Center (SOC) in cooperation with Civil Defense and the General Establishment of Mineral Resources and Geological Survey. More than 60 people took part, and 15 papers were presented, covering diverse topics related to disaster management and preparedness, civil defense, landslides, floods, earthquake precursors and expectations, and several other topics. A paper presented by Eng. Jamal Mohammed Shaalan, SOC director, dealt with examples of local and international disasters. The paper indicated that earthquakes constituted more than 60% of natural disasters during the last 75 years. The Significance of Disaster Preparedness by Mr. Abdulhakim Ahmed outlined the basic requirements for disaster preparedness, which plays an important role in proposing measures to minimize disaster risk and anticipate the future development of cities. The author proposed organizing a data-base by using available information on a physical hazard with information on vulnerability to determine the likely impacts of a hazardous disaster. This way “we can get estimates of casualties, property damage, and the economic losses that are likely to result.” A paper by Mr. Nageeb Abdul Galil indicated that “Since the establishment of the National Seismological Network in November, 1994 in Yemen, micro-moderate earthquakes were recorded showing seismic activity concentrated in some regions, especially around the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Gulf of Tagoura.” A paper on the diseases that accompany natural disasters was presented by Dr. Abdulhakim Al-Kahlani, Director of Prevalent Diseases Department at the Ministry of Health. There are two types of diseases that can accompany natural disasters – direct injuries and burns and indirect such as the diseases resulting from the displacement of people and their overcrowding in unhygienic places. The latter category includes such diseases as T.B., measles, diphtheria, whooping cough, meningitis, and even the plague. Diseases that can be caused by the contamination of food and water include cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, etc. Floods, for example, lead to the accumulation of stagnant water which is suitable breeding place for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The malaria epidemic of 1996 is a case in point. Another paper on the Tawila cisterns in Aden and their role in alleviating flood risk was presented by Eng. Marouf Ibraheem. The paper showed Aden as a volcanic peninsula the shape of a horseshoe. Despite the lack of rain in Aden, the area also had its share of floods and torrents. The Tawila cisterns still function in protecting the city from floods.
Earthquake Sequence Because of the volcanic origin of the region major earthquakes occur regularly in Yemen; at least once every 20 years. Smaller earthquakes occur more often, so there is an ever present risk. The first documented earthquake in Yemen occurred in the area between Shabwa and Mareb in 742 A.D. The major earthquakes that took place in Yemen during the last 15 years include the following. Dhamar At 12:10 Yemen local time (09:10 GMT) on December 13, 1982 Yemen was struck by an earthquake of 5.8 on the Richter-scale. Its epicenter was in the province of Dhamar. This was the first instrumentally recorded major earthquake for Dhamar since the major earthquakes in Sa’ada of the ’50s and ’60s. The Dhamar earthquake was followed by an intensive series of aftershocks that continued until mid-March in 1983. Two thousand people were killed, and another 2,000 injured. Forty thousand houses were damaged, of which approximately 15,000 beyond repair. Water supply, community facilities, and roads were destroyed. Al-Udayn On November 22, 1991, Al-Udayn – an area located 40 km southwest of the Ibb governorate – was struck by an M 4.6 earthquake. Eleven persons in two totally collapsed houses were killed. Aftershocks caused the death of a woman and child due to a rock avalanche that swept their house. Heidan By 09:00 PM (06:00GMT) on January 9, 1993, an M 4.6 earthquake struck the directorate of Heidan, southwest of Sa’ada. It was followed by an intensive sequence of shocks similar to that observed during Al-Udayn earthquake sequence. This earthquake caused minor damages and no deaths.