At least 21 dead in Rwanda quake

Sun Feb 3, 2008 7:35am EST
 
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KIGALI (Reuters) - At least 21 people were killed and 200 seriously injured when two earthquakes struck Rwanda and neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday, police and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The quakes struck close together in Africa's great lakes region along the same western Great Rift Valley fault line.

The first quake, with a magnitude of 6.0 and its epicenter in Democratic Republic of Congo, happened at 10:30 a.m. (0730 GMT), followed by another 5.0 quake in southern Rwanda.

"Twenty one people are so far confirmed dead in the earthquake. Two hundred have serious injuries," Deputy Rwandan Police Chief Mary Gahonzire told Reuters. Congo officials did not immediately have a death toll from the earthquake there.

"Rescue efforts are underway but the number of dead could rise, as so many people are trapped," Gahonzire added.

Earthquakes are common in the western Great Rift Valley -- a seismically active fault line straddling western Uganda, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and neighboring Tanzania.

In 1994, a magnitude 6 tremor in the foothills of western Uganda's Rwenzori mountains killed at least six people. In 1966, a magnitude 7 earthquake killed 157 people and injured more than 1,300 in the Semliki Valley, also in western Uganda.

(Reporting by Arthur Assimwe; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Michael Winfrey)