Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tuesday earthquake

NOTE: Updates at the end of this post.

The United States Geological Survey reports a series of earthquakes in the Arusha region.

The centre of the quakes is about 100km north west of Arusha. They have registered magnitudes of about 5 or 6. That's about equivalent to a 30 kiloton nuclear explosion, according to the British Geological Survey. As a comparison, the recent earthquake in Japan that killed 9, injured 900 and displaced 10,000 was magnitude 6.8.

I think I'll take a look on Google Earth and see what that part of the country is like. It may be part of a national park, or it may be farmland. I'd like to find out more about the impact of these earthquakes in northern Tanzania.

UPDATE: News reports note that the earthquake tremors have been felt in Nairobi, but there are no reports of personal injuries or property damage. The Global Disaster and Alert Coordination System has rated it an Orange Alert - i.e. 'medium'.

IRIN (18 July) has some more details here.

A look at Google Earth reveals that the earthquakes are in the Lake Natron region, around the volacno, Ol Doinyo Lengai, as seen on the left of the this picture (click to enlarge). Arusha is at the bottom, near Mt Meru, and the yellow line is the border with Kenya.

UPDATE: The Daily News reports (18 July):

A POWERFUL earthquake shook western Arusha city yesterday, causing buildings to sway and sending thousands of people fleeing into streets.

No damage or injuries were immediately reported from the tremor that measured 6.0 on the Richter scale. It occurred at around 5pm, just as people were going back home for the evening and night.

The Director General of the Tanzania Meteorological Agency, Dr Mohamed Mhita, confirmed the earthquake, the third in three days and after several years of inactivity in an area dotted by extinct and dormant volcanoes, including the Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. “The quake follows movements on the Great Rift Valley,” he added. The Valley is a fault line cutting through the middle of Africa from south to the Mediterranean Sea.

The quake was also felt in Nairobi and some parts of Dar es Salaam, he said. It lasted about a minute. The quake was also reported by the United States Geological Survey.

“A strong earthquake occurred this evening,” said Arusha Regional Police Commander, Basilio Matei over the phone. “I felt it myself in the office,” he added. The acting spokesman of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Mr Danford Mpumilwa, said that staffs were evacuated from the court’s building located at the Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC). ICTR is trying the key perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda under a United Nations mandate.

Staff of the East African Community and private occupants of the building also scampered out as the powerful quake rattled the town, hub of the country’s northern tourist circuit. "This is the highest magnitude ever recorded in the region for very long," said Mr Walter Maeda, a hotelier, who was at the roof top of his hotel and saw tables “dancing”.

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