Tanzania earthquake toll climbs to 14 dead, 200 injured

Dar es Salaam (AFP) - A 5.7-magnitude earthquake that struck northwest Tanzania, close to Lake Victoria and the borders of Uganda and Rwanda, has killed at least 14 people and injured 200, local authorities said Sunday.

As rescuers scrambled to find survivors from the Saturday quake in the worst-hit town Bukoba, premier Kassim Majaliwa headed there to attend a mourning ceremony at its stadium. President John Magufuli, who is from the region, said he was "deeply saddened."

Bukoba's district commissioner Deodatus Kinawilo, said "so far 14 people have been confirmed dead and 200 injured. They are receiving treatment in different areas impacted by the earthquake."

A group of 15 boys' secondary school boarders in Bukoba, located in Kagera province close to the epicentre of the quake, were believed to be among the dead and injured.

The previous toll from local authorities was 13 dead and 203 injured.

The epicentre of the 1227 GMT quake was 23 kilometres (15 miles) east of the north-western town of Nsunga, in Bukoba district near Lake Victoria, according to the US Geological Survey.

Bukoba suffered widespread damage, with 270 houses demolished and electricity disrupted, the Red Cross said in a statement.

Its main hospital was stretched to nearly full capacity and had limited stocks of medicine.

"Telecommunications have been disrupted and we are trying to get a clear picture of the damage to hospitals and other essential infrastructure," Andreas Sandin, Red Cross operations coordinator in East Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands, said in a statement.

"We ran out immediately, part of my house collapsed," Bukoba resident Jonathan Mbelwa was quoted as saying in Tanzania's Swahili-language Habari Leo newspaper.

"Even the old people say they've never seen an earthquake as big as this in these parts," he added.

Earthquakes are fairly common in the Great Lakes region but are almost always of low intensity.

An AFP correspondent in Dar es Salaam whose mother's family lives in Bukoba said 10 family houses had collapsed.

No damage was reported in the economic capital, Dar es Salaam, which is located some 1,400 kilometres southeast of Bukoba.

"It's safe in Dar but we are still worried about the safety of our family," the AFP correspondent added. "The regional hospital is overwhelmed and can't handle any more patients."

The earthquake was felt as far away as Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Kenya, the US Geological Survey said.

"So far, no further damages have been reported in Kenya, and minor damages reported in Uganda," the Red Cross said.

But in Rwanda the shaking was felt across the country, with hotel staff and half-dressed visitors seen rushing out of their rooms in the capital, Kigali, when the quake struck.

In the Burundi capital, Bujumbura, the president's spokesman Willy Nyamitwe tweeted "I just felt an earthquake at 1429".