Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Earthquake cause volcano eruption

An earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale caused the eruption of a long-dormant volcano in northern Ethiopia at the weekend but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, geologists said on Monday.

The quake, which struck the remote region of Afar, about 980km northeast of the capital on Saturday, was followed by the eruption of Mount Arteale, Ethiopia's only active volcano which has been largely dormant for the past six decades, they said.

"The magnitude of the earthquake, accompanied by a severe volcanic eruption, was measured at 5.5 on the Richter scale," Laeke Asfaw, the head of physical observatory in seismology department of the Addis Ababa University.

Molten lava spewed from the volcano, covering large portions of its slopes and surrounding areas and thick blankets of ash and plumes of smoke were reported in the region, another seismologist at the university, Gezahegn Yirga, said.

The pair said experts had been sent to the area to evaluate any damage caused by the quake and the eruption that began on Sunday and continued throughout the day.

It was not immediately clear, however, when first reports might come in from the region near the Eritrean border which is inhabited mainly by salt-mining Afar nomads.

Gezahegn said the quake and eruption were caused by the expansion of tectonic plates under the Great Rift Valley, which for years has been regarded as highly susceptible to earthquakes and volcano eruptions.

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