December 8, 2009 / 5:22 AM / 10 years ago

Magnitude 5.9 quake jolts Malawi, child killed

BLANTYRE (Reuters) - A child was killed and more houses collapsed in Malawi’s northern district of Karonga on Tuesday when tremors shook the southern African country for a third day.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said a quake of magnitude 5.9, located 6.2 miles deep, struck the uranium-rich region early on Tuesday, after an earlier series of tremors in the same area.

Gasten Macheka, chief executive officer of the Karonga District Assembly, said tremors occurred throughout the night.

“The tremors continued mildly until we felt the intense one this morning,” he told Reuters, adding people were evacuated from their homes after the first quakes on Sunday.

“Houses are continuing to fall in the villages and people are continuing to sleep outside their homes,” Macheka said.

Police spokesman Enock Levason said a one-year-old child was killed and two other people were injured in Tuesday’s tremors.

“A kitchen collapsed on the child in a village called Mwangomba,” he said.

The epicenter was 110 miles north of Mzuzu, Malawi’s third largest city, and 75 miles southeast of the Tanzanian town of Mbeya.

Authorities in Karonga were on high alert after the tremors, which injured six people, two seriously, on Sunday and damaged houses, schools and some government offices.

The director of the Malawi Geological Survey, Leonard Kalindekafe, said the epicenter was near Chilumba, a small port and trading center on Lake Malawi. He said Malawi’s position in the Great Rift Valley meant tremors were common.

The area is near the Tanzanian border.

“I felt it at about 6:15 a.m. (10:15 p.m. EST Monday). We have no information about people who have been injured. We have no information of buildings which have fallen down,” said Diwani Athumani, regional crimes officer in Mbeya, across the border in Tanzania where there were no initial reports of injuries or damage.

Output at Kayelekera uranium mine, owned by Australian Paladin Energy, was not affected by the earlier quakes, which Macheka said began at 2:30 p.m. EST on Sunday and continued until 5 a.m. EST on Monday.

The USGS said those quakes were between 5.1 and 5.8 magnitude.

In 1989, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake killed at least nine people and injured 100 in central Malawi and made 50,000 homeless, according to the USGS.

Additional reporting by Sandra Maler in Washington and Katrina Manson in Dar es Salaam; editing by Andrew Dobbie

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