Earthquake risks in Africa's mountain regions examined at UN forum in Nairobi

Earthquake risks in Africa's mountain regions examined at UN forum in Nairobi

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Africa's mountain regions may face greater risk from volcanoes, earthquakes and landslides than previously thought, according to the findings presented at a United Nations-hosted conference that got under way today in Nairobi, Kenya.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which is hosting the weeklong expert meeting at its headquarters, said urgent efforts were needed to strengthen Africa's understanding, monitoring and early warning of potentially devastating seismic events. Planners and emergency response experts should also draw up strategies for reducing the threat to vulnerable populations, including introducing and enforcing earthquake-proof building codes.

Scientists believe that the continent, where prehistoric cataclysms may have been a key driving force in the evolution of man, could suffer several major eruptions and big tremors during the 21st century, with mountainous regions especially vulnerable, UNEP said.

A new survey of significant earthquakes in Africa shows that between 1980 and the present, the continent has been hit by over 50 serious tremblers, resulting in over 23,000 deaths and injuries and immeasurable economic losses in the countries affected.

Aside from the special risks of living in Africa's mountain ranges, experts will also outline the threats and actions needed to protect the rich and important wildlife in such areas, their vital freshwater resources and other key environmental features, as well as hold a discussion on how to preserve the indigenous knowledge of managing the land in mountainous zones.

Findings from the conference, which is being held as part of the UN International Year of the Mountains, will be taken by UNEP to a meeting of African environmental ministers on 3 and 4 July in Kampala, Uganda.

The conclusions will also form part of the Bishkek Global Mountains Summit, which will at the end of October in Kyrgyzstan to discuss water, culture, economy, risks and policy decisions.