6 December 2005

Congo-Kinshasa: DRC: Rescue, Recovery Teams Search Lake for Quake Victims

Kinshasa — The search for possible victims of an earthquake near the lakeside town of Kalemie in eastern Congo (DRC) continued along the shores of Lake Tanganyika on Tuesday, humanitarian and provincial authorities in Goma, capital of North Kivu Province, said.

"We know that there has not been much damage but we are on the ground with a team from OCHA and MONUC to take stock of the situation," Rigobert Tshimanga, the police chief for Tanganyika District in Kalemie, told IRIN.

Kalemie is the largest town near the epicentre of Monday's magnitude 6.8 quake in Lake Tanganyika. Humanitarian and local authorities put the death toll and material damage at three dead and 10 homes destroyed. A magnitude 6 quake can cause severe damage. Tshimanga said fishermen had been asked to help search the edge of the lake because people had been pursuing their normal activities on the water when the quake occurred at 12.30.

The OCHA spokesman, Michel Bonnardeaux, said the agency and the UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, continued to warn the residents to leave their homes if cracks or other signs of structural damage appeared in their houses.

According to the Congolese scientist in charge of the Goma Volcano Observatory, Celestin Kasereka Mahinda, the tremour was felt in far away Kabalo, in Katanga Province; Lodja in Kasai Oriental; Goma in North Kivu and in Nairobi, Kenya.

In Tanzania, which shares the lake with the Burundi and Zambia - the director general of the Tanzania Meteorology Agency, Mohamed Mhita, said the quake had hit at least nine regions in the country: Dar es Salaam, Kigoma, Rukwa, Kagera, Mwanza, Shinyanga, Tabora, Mbeya and Tanga.

He said the agency was still collating preliminary reports of possible damage but, so far, there had been no reported deaths.

Tanzania's registrar of architects and quantity surveyors, Abraham Marress, said the country was ill-prepared for earthquakes because many building had not conformed to proper technical guidelines.

"There are many buildings that are not safe at all; some are built without the involvement of qualified architects and quantity surveyors," he said.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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