A series of earthquakes and aftershocks of magnitudes ranging from 4.6 to 6.2 have been hitting Karonga district in Malawi since the first week of December. Initially, a one-year-old child died and several people were reported injured due to the tremors. Most of the mud-and-thatch houses built along the epicenter crumbled leaving hundreds homeless.

Building destroyed at Karonga boma

Building destroyed at Karonga boma. My friend, Elias Munthali, who took this photo did not go as far as Ngerenge, the closest area to the epicenter.

Yesterday, the strongest of them all, destroyed several buildings, killing at least three people, injuring about 200 and displacing thousands of people, a government official said. Latest reports indicate that up to 4 676 people have been displaced and 1110 houses destroyed over the past two weeks in Karonga district. My heart and prayers are with the people of Karonga district in these difficult times.

Find some more photos taken my friend, Elias Munthali, from the area around Karonga district headquarters below. If you have some photos from the Ngerenge area, please send them to me (nyirendac at gmail dot com).

Destroyed fence

Destroyed fence

Destroyed house

Destroyed house

Destroyed home

Destroyed home

A chain of destroyed houses

A chain of destroyed buildings

In response to the destruction caused by the initial tremors, US$295,891 was allocated from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC’s) Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS) in delivering immediate assistance to victims. By 14 December, MRCS had distributed tarpaulins,tents and shelter kits.The IFRC had also dispatched some more tarpaulins and shelter kits.

Malawi’s President, Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika donated K2.5 million to the victims when he visited the area last week.He said government is currently assisting the victims with maize, beans, salt, cooking utensils and blankets. Government has also set up a task force to assess the damage.

Meanwhile, government has launched an emergency appeal to well-wishers including donors, religious organizations, business people and individuals for relief items such as family tents, blankets, plastic sheets, maize flour and other items.

Last but not least, I have heard some people attributing these earthquakes to Paladin’s uranium mine. While some earthquakes can be triggered by mining operations, I am of the view that the Karonga earthquakes have nothing to do with the uranium mine. It is just a coincidence that they are happening now when Paladin have just started mining uranium in the area.

The truth is that Karonga, like many parts of the country, lies in the Great Rift Valley and is, therefore, prone to earthquakes and tremors. Salima, the epicenter of the 6.6-magnitude earthquake, that killed at least nine people, injured 100 in 1989, and made 50,000 homeless, is also in the same Valley.

Update (23/12/2009):

Here are some more photos that I got from my friends on Facebook:

Fissure caused by the earthquakes

Fissures caused by the earthquakes

Karonga earthquake fissures

Karonga earthquake fissures in the village

Fissures in the village

Karonga earhquake fissures

Fissure on the M1 Road

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