MAPUTO, Mozambique – A powerful earthquake rocked Mozambique and Zimbabwe early Thursday morning, killing at least two people and sending thousands of frightened people fleeing into the streets from swaying buildings.
The magnitude-7.5 quake shook every corner of Mozambique and was felt strongly in Maputo, the capital in the far south of the country. Tall apartment buildings swayed and hundreds of panicked residents fled into the streets.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had an epicenter 140 miles southwest of Mozambique's main port of Beira and struck just after midnight. It was also felt in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, and as far away as Durban on South Africa's Indian Ocean coast.
A child was killed in the small town of Espungabera near the epicenter, and another person was killed in Machaze, another small town near the center of the quake, said Esperanca Dias, Mozambique's minister of mineral resources. She provided no other details.
At least 11 people were injured, one seriously when he panicked and jumped from third floor window of a hotel in Beira, she told state television.
Some buildings were damaged in Beira, and Dias said the walls of some buildings had collapsed in Chimoyo, north of the epicenter.
Rosa Silva, the governor of Maputo province, said the government was still awaiting reports from the other provinces.
She said the government was concerned there could be serious aftershocks and had asked South Africa for help in monitoring seismic activity.
"We appeal to everyone to be calm and not to panic," she said.
The temblor occurred near the southern end of the East Africa rift system, a seismically active zone which has produced quakes measuring magnitude 7.6.
The quake was shallow, which increased the potential for damage, said Dale Grant, a geophysicist with the USGS National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Co.
At least five aftershocks were immediately recorded and more were expected in the coming days because of the quake's size, said Rafael Abreu, of the National Earthquake Information Center.
During the night, Elias Daudi, Mozambique's national director of energy, urged people over state radio not to return to buildings because of possible aftershocks.
In Beira, people were so frightened that they refused to go back into buildings Thursday morning even though a light rain was falling.
"It felt like the building was going to fall down and it went on for a long time, the trembling," said Johana Neves, manager of the Tivoli Hotel in Beira. "It felt like you were in a boat, it was shaking everything. Yet, it's strange, nothing is broken, even the windows."
Storms and flooding killed at least 13 people this month in Mozambique, where the United Nations warned that natural disasters, food shortages and high AIDS rates were threatening the country's chances of throwing off the shackles of a long civil war.
Mozambique, one of the world's poorest countries, suffers from frequent flooding. In 2000 and 2001, floods killed more than 800 people, left hundreds of thousands homeless and severely damaged roads and bridges.