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Mozambique Quake Felt in Several Southern African Countries

A major earthquake rocked Mozambique early Thursday, shaking buildings across the southern African country and beyond. Initial reports of casualties and property damage are starting to trickle in - with at least two dead and thirteen injuries reported at this time.

The epicenter of the quake was in the sparsely populated - mostly farming - area of central Manica province some 530 kilometers north of the capital Maputo. Mozambique's National Institute of Disaster Management says disaster evaluation teams have been sent to remote areas near the Zimbabwe border to assess the impact of the quake in the area. There have been no reports of injury or property damage in major centers.

The effects were felt up to 1,000 kilometers distant, from Bulawayo in Zimbabwe to coastal towns south of South Africa's port city, Durban, sending people scuttling from buildings into the open. Harare resident Tendai Maphosa says he at first did not know what was happening when the quake struck shortly after midnight, local time.

"Well I was lying in bed, I had just gone to bed when I felt my bed moving," he said. "And I tried to figure out what was happening, I felt the whole house was trembling and it lasted for about a minute at most, and then it stopped."

Maphosa said tremors originating in the area of the Kariba dam are occasionally felt in Harare and thought that was what it was.

Rafael Abreu of the U.S. National Earthquake Information Center told VOA the quake was magnitude 7.5 and just ten kilometers below the surface. He says this type of event has the capacity to cause severe damage to structures that are not built to resist major seismic events.

There have been several minor quakes in the area in the last 15 years, but no major quakes since 1900, when record keeping for the area first began.

The U.S. Geological Survey reports on its Web site that the quake occurred near the southern end of the East African rift system which runs from Djibouti and Eritrea in the north to Malawi and Mozambique in in the south. It forms the boundary between the African and Somali tectonic plates - respectively on the east and the west of the rift.

The survey office says the plates are moving apart at the rate of several millimeters each year.