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Cablegate: Disaster Alert: Earthquake in Northern Malawi

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLG #0654 3421525
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 081525Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY LILONGWE
TO RUEHSD/SECSTATE WASHDC 0095
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0010
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0428

UNCLAS LILONGWE 000654

SIPDIS

OFDA/W FOR CCHAN, ACONVERY, FSHANKS, TDENYSENKO
DCHA FOR JBROUSE
PRETORIA for HHALE, PDISKIN
LONDON FOR AF WATCHER PETER LORD
DEPT PASS TO MALAWI COLLECTIVE
DEPT PASS TO MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION WASHDC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV EAID EMIN AF MI
SUBJECT: DISASTER ALERT: EARTHQUAKE IN NORTHERN MALAWI

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Summary
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1. December 6, 2009 a 5.8 magnitude (Richter Scale) earthquake
struck the Northern Region of Malawi, with aftershocks continuing
through December 8. No fatalities were reported. Injured people
were transported to Mzuzu Hospital, 150 km from the epicenter. No
damage has been reported at the nearby Paladin Africa uranium mine,
where operations are continuing normally. A team from the
Government of Malawi, United Nations agencies and the Red Cross are
in the field assessing the effects of the earthquake. The field
report is expected by Friday December 11, 2009. Post will keep USG
emergency response agencies abreast of the assessment results and
evaluate possible USG support to the Government of Malawi. End
summary.

----------------------------------
Earthquake in Malawi: What We Know
----------------------------------

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2. On Sunday, December 6 at 7:36 p.m., local time there was an
earthquake in Karonga district, Northern Malawi. The US Government
Geological Services (USGS) web page indicated a 5.8 magnitude
earthquake (Richter scale). Three aftershocks measuring greater
than 4.5 magnitude followed within an hour. Two large aftershocks
occurred on Monday, December 7, and another of magnitude 5.9 struck
today at 5:08 am local time.

3. On Monday, December 7, the Government of Malawi, Department of
Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) convened a meeting, chaired by
Deputy Coordinator-DoDMA Gift Mafuleka (the Director was already in
the field). Attending were representatives from Malawi Defence
Force (MDF), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the
World Food Program (WFP), the Red Cross and USAID. The key points
from the meeting were:

a. Detailed information on the extent and impact was still being
gathered by local authorities;

b. There were no fatalities reported. Some people were injured and
sent to Mzuzu Hospital (150 km, South of Karonga). No report on
number of people affected;

c. One person died in the hospital, but the death was not related to
the earthquake;

d. Local authorities have asked the population to keep out of
damaged homes.

------------------------
Uranium Mine Operational
------------------------

4. Karonga is the district in Northern Malawi where Paladin Africa
has recently begun operations at its Kayelekera uranium mine.
Managing Director Neville Huxham told post that the situation is
normal at the mine following the quake. According to Huxham, the
general manager at the site reported "we felt the bumps;" after
which all operations were stopped to allow an evaluation of possible
damage. Operations were restarted after the inspection uncovered no
leaks or faults. The facility was checked again following this
morning's aftershock, with no evidence of any damages. There are no
reports of damage or injuries at the nearby village of Kayelekera.
The mine is currently running normally.

---------------------------
Further Assessment Underway
---------------------------

5. On December 8, a DoDMA-led field assessment team departed for the
Karonga area. The team included participants from WFP, UNICEF, UNDP
and the Red Cross Society of Malawi. The field assessment will take
place on Wednesday December 9. The delegation will return to
Lilongwe on Friday December 11 and report. Each member team will
assess field needs, depending on their field of expertise and report
on number of people affected and related need (food-WFP,
water/health-UNICEF/UNDP, housing/tents-Red Cross Society of
Malawi).

6. The U.S. Mission will participate on Friday meeting with DoDMA
lead field assessment team and report on needs and possible USG
response.

BODDE

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