Tuesday, 5 August 2014

At least one fatality following Magnitude 5.5 Earthquake in northern Free State, South Africa.

The South African Council for Geoscience recorded a Magnitude 5.5 Earthquake in northernmost Free State, South Africa, slightly after 12.20 pm local time (slightly after 10.20 am GMT) on Tuesday 5 August 2014. This is an exceptionally large Earthquake for South Africa, and has resulted in at least one fatality, a man buried by the collapse of a disused mine building in Orkney, North West Province. A number of people have also been reportedly injured in mines across the region, with AngloGold Ashanti reporting 17 injuries at two mines in North West Province, and other mine operators understood to have suffered similar problems. Many buildings were evacuated in Bloomfontein and Johannesburg as a a precaution, and people reported feeling the quake as far away as Botswana and Mozambique.

The remains of a disused mine building in Orkney, North West Province, which collapsed killing  man during the 5 August 2014 Earthquake. ER24 EMS.

Earthquakes are rare in South Africa, with only 11 Earthquakes exceeding Magnitude 4.5 recorded since 1966 (when instrumental records begin in the country) making this one of the largest Earthquakes ever recorded in South Africa. 

Because of this rarity it is hard to make precise judgements about the cause of quakes in South Africa, due to a paucity of data. Northwestern South Africa is close the southern end of the Great Rift Valley exits the continent and passes out under the Indian Ocean. The Great Rift Valley is slowly splitting the African Plate in two allow a line from the Red Sea through Ethiopia, and which includes the great lakes and volcanoes of east-central Africa. This has the potential to open into a new ocean over the next few tens of millions of years, splitting Africa into two new, smaller, continents; Nubia to the west and Somalia to the east.

The approximate location of the 5 August 2014 Free State Earthquake. Google Maps.

Witness statements can help geologists to understand Earthquakes and the geological processes that cause them; if you felt this quake (or if you were in the area but did not, which is also useful information) you can report it to the South African Council for Geoscience here.

See also...

The United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 4.9 Earthquake at a depth of 5 km close to...

Most accounts of the history of seismology in South Africa relate the earliest recorded Earthquake in the country as having occurred on 7 April 1620, as recorded by the French explorer Augustin de Beaulieu, who was becalmed near Robben Island, prior to reaching Table Bay on 15 April. De Beaulieu recorded...

A Magnitude 4.7 Earthquake was recorded at a depth of 5.0 km, roughly 50 km to the west of Barberton in...

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