"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

2.03.2008

tremblement de terre a bukavu - update

So now BBC is reporting that there were two earthquakes in the southern Lake Kivu region this morning; one in Rwanda and another just west of Bukavu in the DRC. 10 died in a church collapse in Rwanda, and Bukavu is very damaged. The first quake was a 6.0 in Congo, and the second was the Rwandan one I wrote about earlier. Reuters reports 38 dead so far and aftershocks occuring every half hour.

As that Reuters story points out, earthquakes are common in this seismically active area - there's a reason the volcanoes are active - but they're usually not of this magnitude. The only earthquake I've ever experienced was in Rwanda, but it was of a much lower magnitude than this. The volcanic observatory in Goma says that this is one of the most significant earthquakes recorded to have hit the region.

Parts of Bukavu are built along five peninsulae that stretch into Lake Kivu. Houses on these peninsulae, especially in the most populated areas, tend to be built up and down on steep slopes. And given the near-total absence of building codes enforcement, you can bet that many of those homes aren't structurally sound enough to withstand two major earthquakes in a matter of hours.

There is virtually no public email available in Bukavu on Sundays, and I haven't gotten any SMS-es from the city, but I'm hoping to hear from friends there tomorrow.

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