HARARE – Zimbabwe is ill-prepared to deal with earthquake disasters and must urgently overhaul its emergency reaction operations, Environment minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri warned yesterday.
This comes as the country was this week rattled by a quake of magnitude 5,6 on the Richter scale, which also struck Botswana and neighbouring South Africa.
The southern African nation has of late been shaken by quakes and tremors, but has not implemented disaster management measures.
In 2016 alone, Muchinguri-Kashiri told the media, over 50 earthquakes were recorded in the country ranging from magnitude 1,5 to 4,6 on the Richter scale.
“Zimbabwe is now regarded internationally as a highly vulnerable country with low preparedness to respond to natural disasters,” she said.
“This includes preparedness for earthquakes and now calls for a detailed study to assess whether there is need for a policy or guidance on earthquakes or seismicity in Zimbabwe,” Muchinguri-Kashiri said.
The earthquakes in Zimbabwe are linked to those occurring in Mozambique, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya — countries in the African Rift valley.
The minister said because earthquakes are being experienced in all provinces, disaster response has to be improved.
Muchinguri-Kashiri said Cabinet has engaged scientists to investigate the occurrence of earthquakes in order to be better prepared.
“We cannot predict when an earthquake will strike and we also do not have policies on how best to construct earthquake-proof structures. We need to influence policies whether in construction of dams or buildings so we know how to construct our structures,” she said.
Meteorological Services Department director Amos Makarau said earthquakes can occur in Zimbabwe, particularly in Karoi and along the Nyamandhlovu aquifer.
Makarau said since Monday’s earthquake, there have been 50 more aftershocks ranging from 3,0 to 5,0 that were experienced.
“We cannot say that our buildings are very safe. Now, construction does not only need environmental impact assessments only but seismic assessments. Ordinary houses as of now are not safe. There comes a time when seismologists have to be engaged in building construction to ensure that materials that can withstand an earthquake are used.
“In the Chipinge earthquake, buildings collapsed. Now that the country and Zambia are looking into construction of the Batoka Gorge Dam, more reinforcements need to be used as that area is highly active in terms of seismic activity. If not properly built, it could collapse,” Makarau said.