From: Reuters
Published February 3, 2008 08:18 AM

African quakes kill at least 30

By Arthur Asiimwe

KIGALI (Reuters) - Earthquakes struck Rwanda and neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday, killing at least 30 people and seriously injuring 350 more, officials said.

The two quakes struck close together in Africa's Great Lakes region hours apart along the western Great Rift Valley fault.

The first quake, with a magnitude of 6.0 and its epicenter in Democratic Republic of Congo, happened at 10:30 a.m. (0730 GMT), followed by another 5.0 quake in densely populated southern Rwanda at 1:56 p.m. (1056 GMT).

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"The death toll has now increased to 25 from the earthquake. Two hundred have serious injuries," Deputy Rwandan Police Chief Mary Gahonzire told Reuters. "Rescue efforts are underway but the number of dead could rise, as so many people are trapped."

The acting governor of Congo's South Kivu province, Bernard Watunakanza, told Reuters by 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.

An official from Congo's U.N. 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 Jacqueline Chenard, MONUC spokeswoman in Bukavu.

Earthquakes are common in the western Great Rift Valley -- a seismically active fault line straddling western Uganda, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and neighboring Tanzania.

In 1994, a magnitude 6 tremor in the foothills of western Uganda's Rwenzori mountains killed at least six people. In 1966, a magnitude 7 earthquake killed 157 people and injured more than 1,300 in the Semliki Valley, also in western Uganda.

(Additional reporting by Joe Bavier in Kinshasa, Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Michael Winfrey)

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