Quake sows havoc in central Africa

A powerful earthquake toppled homes onto children in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, killing at least one child in a region already beset

by war, poverty and volcanoes.

Dr Jean-Donne Owali told The Associated Press by telephone that two people died from quake injuries in his clinic in lakeside Kalemie, 55km from the epicentre.

“Dozens of houses have collapsed, several children were buried by the roofs of their houses,” Owali had said earlier.

“Injured people have been sent to local hospitals.”

United Nations spokesperson Michel Bonnardeaux said two houses and a church

“crumbled”.

“There are three wounded,” Bonnardeaux said. “There was one death, a child who died of its wounds.”

Bonnardeaux had said earlier most of the casualties were struck by falling zinc and steel roofs. He added damage was reported in Kabalo, a Congolese town 300km east of Kalemie along the Lukuga River.

The desperately poor region has camps for tens of thousands of refugees from wars and economic collapse in the DRC and Burundi.

The United States Geological Survey gave a preliminary measurement of 6,8 for Monday’s quake and located the epicentre about 10km below the surface of Lake

Tanganyika, between the DRC and Tanzania.

Quakes of magnitude seven can cause widespread and heavy damage.

Jacques Derieux, head of the geological survey in the eastern Congolese town of Goma said the quake was not linked to the volcanic activity that is common in the region.
He placed the magnitude at closer to 6,3, still powerful enough to cause severe damage, and the location roughly in the middle of Lake Tanganyika.

“Its a normal tectonic earthquake coming out of the Rift Valley,” he said from Goma, 480km north of Kalemie.

The Great Rift Valley runs for 4 800km between Syria and Mozambique.

Celestin Kasereka Mahinda, an official at the Goma volcano observatory, said the quake could affect volcano activity.

Goma’s Nyiragongo volcano erupted on January 18, 2002, forcing about 300 000 people to flee and destroying the homes of 120 000. An estimated 100 people were killed.

Across Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania, the Kigoma Regional Commissioner said authorities were waiting for police stations in remote parts of Tanzania to investigate and report possible casualties.

Kigoma, the main transport hub for western Tanzania and the main Tanzanian port for Lake Tanganyika, was 150km from the centre of the quake.

The quake was felt as far east as Nairobi, about 1 000km from Lake Tanganyika. There were reports of tremors being felt as far south as the shores of Lake Victoria, about 1 100km away. - Sapa-AP

Client Media Releases