Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Three people killed in Malawi earthquake

At least three people were killed and 200 injured following a strong earthquake in Malawi.

The quake struck the south-east African country at 1.19am local time yesterday, and the victims included students who were sleeping in a dormitory at a government school, said Gasten Macheka, the commissioner of Karonga district.

Mr Macheka said about 270,000 people have been urged to leave their homes for their safety, and that the hard-hit district in northern Malawi urgently needs at least 48,000 tents and medical supplies.

"This is a crisis," he said. "We are asking everyone in Karonga not to be in houses or near houses because the situation is unstable. We are appealing to the government and the international community to help us as a matter of urgency."

Mr Macheka said at least three people were killed and 200 injured. Many of the victims were treated for injuries such as broken bones and skin lacerations at Karonga District Hospital, but dozens of others were hospitalised there or evacuated to a hospital in Mzuzu city, about 140 miles (230 kilometres) from the epicentre, he said.

The US Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 6.0, making it strong enough to cause severe damage.

Officials from Malawi's Department of Relief and Disaster Management Affairs were flying to the area to survey the damage, and the Malawi Red Cross was taking tents from the capital, Lilongwe, to the displaced in Karonga district.

The district has been hit by a series of earthquakes and aftershocks since the beginning of December.

Leonard Kalindekafe, the director of Malawi's Department of Geological Surveys, said yesterday's quake was worse than any other. However, earlier this month an earthquake nearly as strong - a 5.9-magnitude - demolished several houses in Karonga district, killing a child and injuring six people.

Mr Kalindekafe said the area had been expecting aftershocks, "but we are surprised at the massive one" that hit on Sunday. "It's now really chaotic. We can't tell what's going to happen," he said.

The district lies on the Great Rift Valley fault line, which may now be realigning itself, making it more unstable than it has been for a long time, said Mr Kalindekafe.

"This is being caused by what we call the rejuvenation of the fault lines, or new faults are being formed," he said.

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