Earthquakes struck Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) yesterday, killing at least 38 people and seriously injuring up to 550 more, officials said.
The two quakes struck close together in Africa's Great Lakes region along the western Great Rift Valley fault.
The first quake, with a magnitude of 6.0 and its epicenter in DRC, happened at 10:30 A.M. (3:30 P.M. Beijing time), followed by another 5.0 quake in densely populated southern Rwanda at 1:56 P.M. (6:56 P.M. Beijing time).
"The death toll (in Rwanda) has risen to 33 people and up to 400 are seriously injured," Deputy Rwandan Police Chief Mary Gahonzire said. She said rescue efforts were underway.
The acting governor of Congo's South Kivu province, Bernard Watunakanza, said on telephone from the eastern town of Bukavu that aftershocks were happening "every 20 or 30 minutes".
"Up to now there are five dead and 149 seriously injured. Many people are traumatised," he said.
Witnesses to the Congo quake told of scenes of panic.
"It was a fear that I cannot even explain. We thought we were already dead," said Bukavu resident Jacqueline Hachez.
"We have never seen a quake like that here before. Part of my house is on the verge of falling into the lake (Kivu)."
An official from Congo's UN peacekeeping mission, known as MONUC, said buildings had been destroyed in Bukavu.
"There is lots of damage. Many buildings have been hit. Lots of houses have completely collapsed," said spokeswoman Jacqueline Chenard.
Earthquakes are common in the western Great Rift Valley - a seismically active fault line straddling western Uganda, eastern DRC, Rwanda and neighboring Tanzania.
(China Daily via Agencies February 4, 2008)