Powerful quake rocks East Africa

A powerful earthquake has hit eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, near Lake Tanganyika.

An aid worker said some children were trapped under collapsed roofs near the quake's epicentre, which was some 55km south-east of Kalemie, in DR Congo

The shocks were felt in Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda, and by the Indian Ocean. Hundreds fled in panic from offices in the Kenyan capital.

The quake hit with a 6.8 magnitude at 1219GMT, the US Geological Survey said.

The epicentre was about 13km (8 miles) underground, the USGS said, some 975km (600 miles) south of Nairobi.

East Africa's Great Rift Valley runs along a geological fault line, but has largely escaped major quakes in recent years.

One aid worker near the epicentre told AP news agency that the injured were being taken to hospital.

"Dozens of houses have collapsed, several children were buried by the roofs of their houses," said Jean-Donne Owali by telephone from the lakeside town of Kalemie.

He said he saw children at one clinic bleeding from wounds to the head suffered when their mud-and-thatch homes collapsed on them.

Much of eastern DR Congo has been ravaged by war in recent years and is blighted by poor communications and infrastructure.


"There is quite a lot of damage to these poorly constructed houses," Michel Bonnardeaux, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the DR Congo capital, Kinshasa, told Reuters news agency.

"Residents told us that some people had died and others were injured but we do not have any figures yet," he said.

"A quake of this kind could easily produce significant damage, but I wonder what kind of infrastructure they have there in the region," said Dr Andrzej Kijko, head of seismology at South Africa's Council for Geoscience.

"There may not have been much to destroy."

The strength of the quake was reportedly felt in six countries, and prompted panic among some people working in Nairobi's high-rise offices.

Witnesses said that tremors lasted for about 15 seconds.

"People came running down - scared - because you don't know what it is. You're moving this way and that," Nairobi worker Tabitha Nyambati told Reuters.

Cracks appeared in some Nairobi buildings after the quake, witnesses said.

Reporters and witnesses said tremors had been felt in Rwanda's capital, Kigali, and in Bujumbura, capital of Burundi, as well as in DR Congo, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.