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Series of  Earthquakes Hit East Africa


Kenya and Tanzania have experienced seven earthquakes in the past five days. Arjun Kohli reports for VOA from Nairobi that the Kenyan government asks people remain calm and go about their daily business as usual.

The first earth tremor was felt on July 12. Its magnitude was 4.4 on the Richter Scale, but subsequent earthquakes have risen to a magnitude of six.

Tremors were felt in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Nairobi in Kenya as well as other major towns. The main effect has been to shake buildings, but there has been no loss of life or major structural damage reported.

The epicenter is close to the Kenya-Tanzania border, around the active volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai.

A senior Kenyan geologist from the Department of Mines and Geology, Shadrack Kimomo, says the department is ill-equipped to address the situation. He adds that seismologists from the United States have submitted an analysis, which Kenyan geologists are depending on.

"Most of the information we are getting is from the USA, because here in Kenya we do not have the monitoring equipment for seismology," Kimomo explained. "What we gather is there is an active volcano near the border of Kenya and Tanzania called Ol Doinyo Lengai and that is where the tremors are originating. Given the intensity and frequency with which these ones are coming we expect the aftershocks not to be big but to be moderate. But if the intervals were longer, we would expect a bigger one. The rift valley, the place we are, is very active seismically."

A television report released by the Kenyan government called for a review of existing safety laws in buildings and work places. Government spokesman Alfred Mutua said every building should have a drill timetable and a fire evacuation plan to be put in place with immediate effect.

A report released by a U.S.-based Earthquakes Hazard Program says volcanic eruptions are often preceded and accompanied by earthquakes of this nature. The report said there is not enough information to say for sure if this will happen.

The report added that it is that the earthquakes are being caused by the movements of two tectonic plates, the Somali plate and the Africa plate. Kimomo said that Kenyan officials are preparing themselves for both possibilities.

"We are in an active plate. We say the African plate and the Somali plate are separating along the rift valley," Kimomo said. "So we are in an active zone. It could be either that one or the volcano, but if it is the volcano, given the intensity, we expect some eruptions, but we hope not."

The volcano is surrounded primarily sparsely populated area, but he densely populated town of Arusha is within 100 kilometers of Ol Doinyo Lengai.

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