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. One Dead As Strong Earthquake Rocks East And Central Africa

Map of Tanzania, and surrounding western states.
by Matthew Lee and Lillian Omariba
Nairobi (AFP) Dec 05, 2005
A powerful earthquake shook east and central Africa on Monday, killing at least one person and injuring several others in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), near the epicenter on the border with Tanzania.

A UN official in Kinshasa and a medical source in the town of Kalemie, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the epicenter, said an infant had died from injuries sustained when the quake caused the collapse of his family's house.

"The infant who had been hospitalized in the Asia clinic in Kalemie has died of his wounds," said Michel Bonnardeaux spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

A source at the clinic confirmed that the child died several hours after being admitted to the facility.

Bonnardeaux told AFP the infant was one of at least three people in Kalemie to have been wounded in the collapse of several buildings on the outskirts of the town.

"Two houses and a church collapsed on periphery of Kalemie and in the center, where there was a lot of panic, there are cracks in many buildings," he said.

Kalemie was seemingly worst hit by the quake, that registered 7.5 on the Richter scale and shook at least six nations throughout the region.

Apart from the damage there, witnesses in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi said the quake had caused cracks in at least two downtown office buildings that had swayed, sending thousands of workers fleeing into the streets.

In addition to the DRC and Kenya, it was felt in Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, according to residents, who said there was no visible damage.

According to the the Observatory of Earth Sciences in the French city of Strasbourg and the US Geological Survey (USGS), the quake occured at 12:19 GMT (3:19pm local time in most of the affected countries).

They said the epicenter was on the eastern side of Lake Tanganyika, the largest of the chain of bodies of water in the Rift Valley that forms the border between Tanzania and the DRC.

In the Ethiopian capital, where the quake was not felt, the seismology department at the University of Addis Ababa said the quake was the most powerful to hit the Rift Valley in a decade.

In Nairobi, some 900 kilometers (560 miles) away from the epicenter, and the port city of Mombasa, tall buildings swayed as the earth shook for some 15 seconds, sending thousands fleeing into the streets.

"The building started swaying, but I felt like it was me and I was going to faint," Nairobi secretary Winnie Achieng told AFP. "When I felt it again I rushed to the next office only to realise that people were rushing downstairs and that's when I knew something was wrong."

"I felt like I was going to fall off from my seat, then people in my office started shouting that there was a tremor," said Sandra Nsibirwa, a British Airways employee.

In northern Tanzania, the quake forced the evacuation of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which is trying suspects in that country's 1994 genocide.

In Rwanda itself, residents of the capital Kigali said they had felt the earth shaking as did witnesses in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, the Burundian capital of Bujumbura.

In Bujumbura, the outskirts of which border Lake Tanganyika, an AFP correspondent reported that the lake's waters appeared "more rough than normal" but said residents of the area had reported no damage.

As in Nairobi, Kampala and Arusha, large office buildings in Bujumbura were evacuated, the correspondent said.

A geologist at the University of Nairobi said the quake was not entirely unexpected in the Rift Valley, the 5,000-kilometer (3,125-mile) long chasm formed by African and Arabian tectonic plates that runs from northern Syria through Africa to Mozambique.

Source: Agence France-Presse

related report
French Observatory Records Magnitude Of African Quake At 7.5
Strasbourg, France (AFP) Dec 05 -- An earthquake that rocked parts east and central Africa Monday registered 7.5 on the Richter scale, according to a French seismic observatory -- making it a temblor strong enough to cause damage in inhabited areas.

The quake spread out from a spot near the eastern side of Lake Tanganyika, which forms the border between Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and struck at 1219 GMT, the Observatory of Earth Sciences in the French city of Strasbourg said.

The exact coordinates were 6.9 degrees on the southern latitude and 30.8 degrees longitude east, near the Tanzanian village of Sibwesa.

"The epicentre was located some 10 kilometres underground, it's therefore possible that the tremor was widely felt," said a seismologist at the French observatory, Christophe Deperetti.

He added that a quake of such magnitude "is relatively rare in that region, which is not in an area where big tectonic plates meet."

The last big temblor to hit that part of Africa was in October 2000, when a quake measuring 6.7 was recorded.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties after the latest geological shudder, though residents of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, 900 kilometres (560 miles) distant, reported feeling the tremor, which prompted the evacuations of some tall buildings that swayed.

A US observatory, the US Geological Survey, registered the strength of the quake at 6.8 on the Richter scale, according to its website.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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