Investigators assess quake that shook the region

By Mpho Tebele

Gaborone-Botswana in collaboration with South Africa is assessing the damage caused by a strong earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 that struck the country  on April 3, with the tremor felt in several neighbouring countries.

The country’s National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) said that various District Disaster Management Committees across the country and other relevant first responders were on the ground to ascertain the extent of the damage caused by the earthquake.

According to information from Botswana Geoscience Institute, the epicentre of the earthquake was 132km west of Moiyabana and 227 kilometres from Gaborone.

The tremors were felt in neighbouring Zimbabwe as far as Harare, with areas like Plumtree and Hwange which are closer to the border with Botswana being the hardest hit.

It was also felt in several cities in South Africa as well as in Swaziland, several hundreds of kilometres from the epicentre, witnesses said. In central Johannesburg, two buildings were evacuated as a precaution, according to media reports.

“The members of the public are urged to remain calm and listen to relevant updates through official channels.

The public is also advised that should they require any assistance due to the impact of the earthquake in their areas, they must contact the District Commissioner’s office, police, or any leadership in their respective areas,” NDMO said in a release.

Botswana’s Geosciences Institute dispatched a team of investigators to the epicentre of the earthquake to make visual assessments of the place.

Mpho Ramaselaga, a geophysicist at the institute, told News24 that the team which was joined by other geophysicists and geoscientists from South Africa.

“Our plan is to visit the epicentre where we will make assessments as well as to plant a seismograph there so that we can monitor if this is an active earthquake.

If it happens to be an active earthquake, the seismograph will help us monitor it,” Ramaselaga is quoted as saying.

Ramaselaga said they also interviewed people from the communities close to the earthquake epicentre to get a clearer view of the incident.

Moiyabana village, which is situated at least 132km west of the quake’s epicentre, was the only village reported to have felt the major brunt of the quake so far.

According to reports from the National Disaster Management Office, at least 36 students from Mothamo Junior Secondary School in Moiyabana were affected by the incident, while 10 households from the village suffered some structural defects.

Of the 36 students affected, 30 were treated at the school, four were treated at the village clinic while two were referred to Sekgoma Memorial Hospital for treatment.

Reports have so far confirmed some minor injuries and structural damages was sustained in areas. “As the earthquake happened during study time at the said government boarding school, a stampede broke out as everyone tried to escape and minor injuries were experienced.

As for the two students who were referred to the hospital, one had sustained glass lacerations after he tried to escape through the window while the other one had his arm dislocated during the stampede,” NDMO public relations officer Tebogo Modiakgotla said.

The earthquake was also said to have been felt in the mining town of Jwaneng where the Government Civic Centre building cracked with some damage to property.

Moiyabana village chief, Gosotwamang Keatshotse, said the incident, the first of its kind in the area, left the residents traumatised.

“It was after 19:00 hrs on Monday that we heard a blast which was followed by the earth shaking vigorously.

I think the blast has affected a gas mine (coal bed methane) because it seems that is where the sound we heard came from,” he said.

Keatshotse said some of the buildings in his village had their walls cracked and they were still assessing the damage caused by the earthquake.

Tlou Energy which is focused on delivering power in Botswana through the development of coal bed methane (CBM), through its then managing director, Glen Smit, denied that they were involved in fracking activities in the area. In a brief statement this week, the company said that the epicentre of Monday’s earthquake, which measured 6.5 on the Richter scale, was in a region close to the project area but reported that it had recorded no damage.

According to USA seismologists the earth quake struck at a depth of 29 kilometres, and rumbled throughout Gaborone for about 30 seconds.

In a statement published on social media late Monday, the government of Botswana said no deaths had been reported.

“We felt the house was vibrating, all the window and door panels shaking heavily.

We went outside and felt the same,” a resident of Letlhakane, a village in Botswana near the epicentre, told the Earthquake Report website.

The chief executive officer of the Botswana Geoscience Institute, Tiyapo Ngwisanyi, has dismissed suggestions that the earthquake may have been a result of alleged hydraulic fracking activity in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).

He said that his organisation was certain that the earthquake was not man-made as it took place 29km underground.

“People must know that it is a natural earthquake,” he said.

April 2017
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