Dubai earthquake: firms shaken but not stirred

Law firms in Dubai were shaken by an earthquake today that measured 6.1 on the Richter scale at its epicentre, raising questions as to whether offices rapidly constructed as part of the emirate’s on-going construction boom will be able to withstand further seismic activity.

Tremors of an earthquake that had its epicentre across the Persian Gulf in southern Iran were felt in the emirates of Al Ain, Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah at around 2.30pm local time (11.30am GMT). today.

High rise buildings in the Dubai International Financial Centre and on main thoroughfare Sheikh Zayed Road were evacuated and staff assembled in emergency areas.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was among the firms based in Sheikh Zayed Road that evacuated staff. Partner Bob Charlton, who divides his time between Dubai and Riyadh said: “[The office] was evacuated. I was on the phone to a colleague when the building there clearly rocked for a good half minute.

“There has been some seismic activity in the Middle East in the past, and I would imagine some seismic protection is built into the building. It’s a question of whether that matches or exceeds [local needs].”

But one lawyer at the Dubai office of another UK firm was less hopeful: “God knows if the buildings have sufficient seismic protection, given the speed with which they go up. One would hope that we would be insured.”

The lawyer conceded, however, that the earthquake could be interpreted as an “act of God.”

The Lawyer understands that Dubai’s Department of Civil Defence will be carrying out checks on buildings to ensure that there has not been significant structural damage.

The tremor coincided with the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider by the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) deep underneath the Swiss-French border, which generated a flurry of internet speculation that the world be swallowed by a blackhole.

Ashurst Dubai managing partner Nick Bryans added: “I was reading an email from a colleague about the end of the world when it happened. But it seems that London and Switzerland are still there.”

To read today’s special report on the Dubai property market, click here.