Kuwait residents and expats evacuate as strong Iraq earthquake shakes buildings

Published:  13 Nov at 6 PM
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Last night, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck Iraq, with tremors in Kuwait forcing panicking residents and expats onto the streets.

The huge earthquake hit large areas of Iraq, including Baghdad, and was centred around Halabja on the country’s border with Iran. Shocks were felt in Kuwait, sending frightened residents onto the streets as building swayed and the ground shook. Aftershocks were expected, although at present little damage appears to have been done to buildings in the emirate and no injuries or fatalities have been reported.

Meanwhile, inflation is causing concern in Kuwait’s expat community as commodity and food prices continue to rise although rental charges are still falling. The fall in rental values began last year, and is still ongoing, and many landlords are prepared to leave their properties empty rather than rent at a lower price. Reductions are higher in far-flung districts, with some areas showing falls of as much as 40 per cent. The number of expats looking for properties has also fallen due to the effects of recently introduced rulings aimed at terminating the contracts of expat workers in the public sector.

In spite of cheaper rents, expats are finding inflation in the emirate is reducing their chances of saving and investing part of their salaries against their eventual retirement. Although lower this year than in the past few years, official figures still show a ten per cent increase in consumer goods prices, including food. The country mostly depends on imported products, the currency is linked to the fluctuating US dollar and oil prices are still low.

Another problem is linked to the region’s current geopolitical situation and its discouraging effect on overseas investors. Kuwaiti investors are now choosing to send their money overseas rather than taking a chance on the recovery of the overall property market. At present, an oversupply of properties for sale isn’t being matched by demand, leaving a number of new-builds empty after several unsuccessful attempts to promote sales.
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