A huge 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck Mozambique along the Indian Ocean coast, collapsing at least one building in the main port city and sending people fleeing into the streets.
Buildings swayed and doors shook across the south-east African nation from the coast to towns bordering South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, but there was no immediate word of injuries.
The US Geological Survey said the quake struck at 12.19am local time Thursday (10.19pm Irish time), with its epicentre 140 miles south west of Mozambique’s main port of Beira. It was felt as far away as Durban, on South Africa’s coast, and Harare, in central Zimbabwe.
“Somebody just called to say a building collapsed in Beira,” a reporter at the state Mozambique radio station in Maputo, the capital, said. But he had no further information.
In Beira, a hotel manager said the quake sent the mainly-South African tourists running terrified from their rooms as the building began moving, but nobody was hurt.
“It felt like the building was going to fall down and it went on for a long time, the trembling,” Tivoli Hotel manager Johana Neves said by telephone. “It felt like you were in a boat, it was shaking everything yet, it’s strange, nothing is broken, even the windows.”
“Now we are just afraid of something like the tsunami, but it’s not going to happen!”
She said panicked guests had returned to their rooms. But Antonio Dinis, who also was at the hotel, said the streets were full of people afraid to go back home or sleep.
In Maputo, hundreds fled their homes into the streets, as they did in Chimoyo, 300 miles west of Beira near the border with Zimbabwe, and Tete, which neighbours Zambia and Malawi, the Mozambique radio station said.
The quake was shallow, which increased the potential for damage, said Dale Grant, a geophysicist with the USGS National Earthquake Information Centre in Golden, Colorado, a clearing house for information on temblors worldwide.
“It was felt very widely in the epicentral area, though it’s not a very heavily-populated area,” Grant said. “There is certain to be damage, but so far, we’ve had absolutely no word of damage.”
At least five aftershocks were immediately recorded and more were expected in the coming days because of the quake’s size, Rafael Abreu of the earthquake information centre said later.
The temblor occurred near the southern end of the East African rift system, a seismically active zone. Since 1900, the largest quake measured on the rift system had a magnitude of 7.6, according to the USGS website.
A magnitude-7 earthquake is capable of causing widespread, heavy damage in populated areas.