On Tuesday, a 5.5 magnitude earthquake struck South Africa, killing one person and injuring others. The earthquake was the second quake to hit Orkney, a small mining town near Johannesburg, in the space of three months. Although Orkney often experiences earthquakes, the last two quakes have prompted geoscientists to ask how bad the quakes might get and how often they will strike. Meanwhile architecture experts are warning that new building designs may need to be rethought in order to accommodate temblors.
The epicentre of the quake hit the mining town of Orkney in the North West, but its tremors were felt in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Gauteng, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and even Mozambique. The gold mining town located 120km southwest of Johannesburg last experienced an earthquake in June. The earlier quake measured 4.9 on the Richter scale.
Following Tuesday’s earthquake, ER24 said trapped miners from various mines had been safely brought to the surface.
A 31-year-old man from the mining town was however not so lucky. His body was found after a wall had collapsed on him during the course of the quake.
“He was found lying under some debris,” ER24 spokesperson Luyanda Majija told IOL.
Several miners across the region have suffered injuries as a result of the earthquake. According to Anglo Gold Ashanti, 17 of its employees were injured at the company’s Vaal River operations and were attended to by emergency medical staff.
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The earthquake began just after 12:20pm, and aftershocks shook through Khuma, a township near Orkney, where 400 homes were damaged and families were evacuated from homes declared to be unsafe.
In Pretoria, employees in high-rise buildings were panicked by the tremors. The 27-storey Treasury building, Home Affairs’s 19-storey head office and the offices of the public protector were quickly evacuated.
“I feared a stampede and had to shout for people to stop running. It was insane,” Home Affairs employee Matome Ramashala told TimesLive.
Geoscientist Chris Hartnady believes that the increase in frequency of the quakes is worrying for South Africa.
“[Yesterday’s quake] occurred in a mining belt known for its high frequency of earthquakes. The worry now is by how much these will increase and the devastation that will come with them,” Hartnady said.
The earthquake is one of the biggest temblors to strike South Africa in almost a decade. The largest earthquake to hit South Africa was the 1969 quake in Tulbagh, in the Western Cape, which had a magnitude of 6.3.