39 die in central African quakes

Thomas Rippe,Associated Press
Monday 04 February 2008 01:00

Two earthquakes struck hours apart in Rwanda and neighboring Congo, killing at least 39 people including some who were in a church that collapsed. Nearly 400 were injured.

A magnitude-6.0 quake struck Congo early yesterday, according to the US Geological Survey. The second quake, which registered 5.0, hit a few hours later near the countries' border in Rwanda's rural Rusizi District.

"I was at home when the earthquake hit and the next thing I heard was the house falling down," said Florence Nyiranzoga, who was airlifted to the Rwandan capital, Kigali, for treatment of her injuries.

Asuma Mujawase, another victim, who was also airlifted here, said the death toll was sure to rise.

"I am sure very many people are going to die," she said, adding that the hospital near the quake's center was full and "people were scattered in the hospital compound."

In Rwanda, 34 people were killed and 231 wounded, according to a Ministry of Health hotline. Frank Mugambage, an official in the president's office, said several people were killed when their church collapsed. Rescuers were searching for more victims.

Across the border in the lakeside Congolese city of Bukavu, Mayor Raisi Kunda said five people were killed and 149 injured. Kunda said many homes, as well as schools and churches, were damaged in the city, but the extent was not immediately clear.

The area where the quakes hit is part of Africa's Great Rift Valley, which includes a seismically active fault line. The Rwanda temblor rattled the capital, Kigali, some 125 miles away from the Rusizi District.

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