Saudi authorities evacuated five western villages on Monday after tremors hit a volcanic region in the past weeks raising concerns of possible eruptions.
“There was a large quake, the largest so far,” Ahmed al-Attas, vice president of the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS), told Reuters after civil defence officials evacuated the villages near the town of al-Ais.
Attas was referring to a 4.68 earthquake, which hit the region on Sunday. Al-Ais, 150 km (100 miles) northeast of the Yanbu on the Red Sea, is not close to the world’s top oil exporter’s oil and petrochemicals facilities.
The region lies on a fault line, according to SGS, which declined to comment on current magma levels, but newspapers reported that in the past few days magma levels had risen to 4 km (2.5 miles) below the surface from 8 km.
Fears of an eruption in dormant volcanoes in al-Ais have sent panic stricken residents voluntarily fleeing to the holy city of Medina and Yanbu last week.
The population of al-Ais, an ancient resting place for caravans travelling between the western and southern cities of the Arabian Peninsula and Syria, is estimated at around 60,000 people.