- Powerful earthquakes have hit the border between Congo Kinshasa (DRC) and Tanzania. The quake was measured at 6.8 on the Richter scale and at least two persons are reported to have been killed in Congo Kinshasa. The extent of damage remains unknown. The quake was felt in Tanzania, the Congo, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya.
According to the US Geological Survey, the main quake had a magnitude of 6.8, which is considered a strong earthquake with destructive powers. Its epicentre was said to have been 55 kilometres east of the Congolese town of Kalemie below the surface of Lake Tanganyika, very close to the Tanzanian border.
Damages have yet to be mapped. Provisional reports however indicate that at least two people killed in the Kalemie area. Kalemie has about 200,000 inhabitants. In the same Congolese town, "dozens of houses and a church collapsed, according to a statement by the US Geological Survey. According to the UN, about a dozen injuries have been reported.
The earthquake occurred in middle of the active seismic Lake Tanganyika Region, which is connected to East Africa's Great Rift Valley geological complex. The geological complex regularly experiences quakes, but not often of such a large magnitude. The largest quake was strongly felt as far away as Arusha in Tanzania, Kigali in Rwanda, Kampala in Uganda, Nairobi in Kenya and Bujumbura in Burundi.
Relief for the earthquake victims is still in its planning phase. The UN today said that its relief office is currently gathering data on "possible aid needs" throughout East Africa. This was needed to map the level of assistance "that may be required," the UN said
"There appears to be some damage but the extent still remains unknown," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said of the quake. "While additional information is still being sought regarding the situation on the ground, there are concerns of poisonous gas emissions from the ground of the lake," OCHA added.
"There are also fears of the possibility that the quake might have caused landslides," the UN agency warned. Experience has shown that landslides triggered by an earthquake may be the most destructive force in such an event. Thousands of villages in the region still need to be investigated on to get a picture of possible damages.
The Great Rift Valley is Africa's most active geological region. The complex of rifts, volcanoes and hot springs runs from the Middle East, through the whole of the Red Sea, into Ethiopia, East Africa's great lakes and to Mozambique. The large rift already has separated the Arabian peninsula from Africa and within some million years is expected to separate East Africa and the Horn from the rest of the continent. While East Africa drifts eastwards, quakes and volcano eruptions are produced in the rift zone.
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