United Nations humanitarian agencies have started distributing emergency relief supplies, including food, tents and surgical kits, to thousands of people living in the far east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which was hit by a major earthquake yesterday.
At least 34 people are confirmed to have been killed and 300 others injured as a result of the quake, measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale, which struck the province of South Kivu about 7:35 yesterday morning, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The epicentre of the temblor was about 20 kilometres north of the provincial capital Bukavu, and close to the border with Rwanda, where damage has also been reported. Parts of neighbouring Burundi were also affected, while the region has been shaken by a series of aftershocks.
Nearly 100 buildings have collapsed in Bukavu alone, and more than 800 rendered uninhabitable, while the local dam and hospital have also been damaged. Schools, churches and a hospital were also damaged in the towns of Kabare and Katana, which are both closer to the quake’s epicentre.
In Bukavu, the World Health Organization (WHO) and its local aid partners have started handing out emergency health and surgical kits and extra health personnel to help two local hospitals treat the wounded.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that more than 500 tents are urgently needed to provide shelter for Congolese who have lost their home, as well as supplies of drinking water. More food, tents and plastic sheeting are expected to be delivered tomorrow.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are also working with UN agencies to assess the situation and determine how best to bring relief to locals, who are already suffering from months of fighting in the region between Government forces and armed rebels.
Across the border in Rwanda, the UN Resident Coordinator met other UN officials and dispatched an assessment team to the town of Rusizi, close to the border with the DRC. Psycho-social support to the victims of the quake is seen as a priority issue.