Watch out for earthquake aftershocks, Met dept warns

bots quake

Thandeka Moyo, Chronicle Reporter
THE Meteorological Services Department yesterday warned that aftershocks of an earthquake that shook Botswana on Monday night and felt in many parts of Zimbabwe can damage buildings and injure people.

The department also warned members of the public against following “dangerous” messages about earthquakes on social media, advising instead that people should get accurate information from the department’s website.

An earth tremor, triggered by an earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale which hit Botswana at 7:40PM on Monday, ripped through most parts of Zimbabwe.

In a statement yesterday, the Met office said members of the public would feel the aftermath of one of the greatest earthquakes in the history of Botswana.

“This was a large regional earthquake thus we expect aftershocks hours, days or weeks after the main earthquake. Aftershocks can cause building damage and falling debris that can injure people. People should check for infrastructural damage to their properties as this earthquake was widely felt in Plumtree, Gwanda, Bulawayo, Hwange, Victoria Falls and even Harare.  This should give us lessons as a country that we are not safe from earthquakes and that earthquakes are a hazard,” reads the statement.

The Met Dept added:

“This is a very big earthquake thus it has higher chances of causing infrastructural damage. A comprehensive intensity survey would need to be carried out in areas like Plumtree and most parts of south western Zimbabwe. This would generate a well detailed intensity survey report thus helping to map the areas the earthquake was felt and intensity in each area.”

The department said it received phone calls from all over the country yesterday from concerned members of the public.

“They felt the ground shaking. Some also said they heard rumblings, the shaking of door panels and the rattling of windows. A number of people in Plumtree were frightened as they felt their houses vibrating, door panels shaking heavily,” reads the statement.

South Africa experienced a 5.2 quake earlier on Monday at 5.08AM with no reported casualties.  According to the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) earthquake data, a 5.2 magnitude tremor of a depth of 5km was felt 8km south of Stilfontein in the North West Province.

Meanwhile, the Met Dept and the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) have noted that there are some misleading messages that are being circulated on the social media in the aftermath of the earthquake.

“Of concern are some messages that have now gone overboard to the extent of misleading the general public such as where and when the next earthquake will take place and that people should sleep outdoors,” reads a joint Press release from the organisations yesterday.

“While we have no problem with social media, we take exception to those messages that become sensational on matters of life and death.”

The organisations appealed to the media to help in ensuring the general public is protected from taking wrong decisions based on wrong information.

“Accordingly, let us respect the authoritative voice principle which ensures that all official communication on warnings and alerts that are a matter of life and death come from a single source. Too many sources of information may lead to confusion under these circumstances. A recognised or designated authority communiqué enables a person to make informed decisions based on official information. In Zimbabwe, the Meteorological Services Department is responsible for monitoring earthquakes. The general public in the country is urged to check with the department for confirmation and decision making.

It costs nothing to check,” the release added.


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