DRC: Amid aftershocks, many Bukavu residents sleep in the open

Friday, February 15, 2008

Aftershocks continue to rattle the eastern town of Bukavu three days after an earthquake killed six people and injured hundreds. Many residents are still sleeping in the open for fear their damaged houses might collapse.

“We felt another series of tremors at 3pm [on 6 February]. We cannot allow people to go home and spend the night there in case their walls fall in,” said Dieudonne Wafula, who is in charge of the Goma volcano observatory and travelled to Bukavu, which lies at the opposite end of Lake Kivu to Goma.

Some families have begun to receive humanitarian assistance.

“The composition of standard non-food kits has been adapted to the specific needs of the families; they include two plastic sheets, two blankets, and soap mainly,” said Christophe Illemassene, spokesman for the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Bukavu’s mayor, Bonga Laisi, told IRIN by telephone that some schools, shops and offices in the town had re-opened, a development that alarmed Wafula. “We have seen that schools have re-opened without advice from us experts. We would have liked only the secondary school to have re-opened to start with to save the lives of the youngest who would not be able to protect themselves during strong aftershocks.”

A government delegation, comprising ministers, members of parliament and deputies, travelled to Bukavu with 14 tonnes of aid supplies and 16 doctors.

According to the mayor, only 80 households, or 400 people, had received humanitarian assistance by the afternoon of 6 February, and that distribution had to be interrupted because of unrest.

“There were occasional fights because everyone wanted to be served first. But we have taken precautions to ensure the safety of distributions and do all we can to make sure everything is done in an orderly manner under the eyes of the police,” he added.

According to the OCHA spokesman, 312 people were injured in the weekend quake, 50 of whom were still receiving treatment. He added that 99 buildings had collapsed and 815 were unsafe for habitation.

Source: IRIN