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Journal of an earthquake: Tremors shake Mozambique, Zimbabwe

Feb. 24, 2006

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earthquake registering 7.5 on the Richter scale hit Mozambique and Zimbabwe Feb. 23. The following is an edited journal account from Ezequiel Nhantumbo, Mozambique Initiative representative in the United Methodist Church’s Mozambique Area. Nhantumbo, a graduate of Africa University, recorded events immediately after the quake.

By Ezequiel Nhantumbo*

MAPUTO, Mozambique (UMNS) — Earthquakes are not a common phenomenon here. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake that hit overnight registered 7.5 on the Richter scale. Two people were killed in farming villages near the epicenter. Mostly, people fled from shaking buildings in the cities and were just plain scared. 

2:45 a.m. 23 Feb. : It was the very first time Mozambique experienced an earthquake of such magnitude. It hit Sofala Manica, Inhambane, Gaza and Maputo. The first shaking of great impact occurred around 3 a.m. and lasted at least 33 seconds, and the second followed around 4 a.m. with less intensity.

Panic was generated everywhere. There are reports of fallen houses, especially in Manica, at the epicenter, near the border with Zimbabwe. People could not sleep in their homes for fear that many more times this would happen and with high intensity. Rumors are everywhere, some indicating that we are still expecting one more round this morning.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

Ezequiel “Ezy” Nhantumbo is coordinator for the Missouri Initiative in Mozambique.
The tall buildings shook, windows cracked, items fell down and light bulbs blasted. People are now returning to their homes this morning, and some will not show up at their working place.

Electricity was cut in Beira followed by heavy rains soon after the first quake. I called Jacob Jenhuro in Beira, director of the council on ministries for the North Mozambique Annual Conference; the Rev. Anastacio Chembeze, pastor of Beira Central United Methodist Church; and Joao Damiao Elias, bishop’s assistant, who reported no casualties so far. Rev. Chembeze reported considerable damages in the house, but no one was hurt. The same thing happened at Chicuque Mission, Morrumbene, Xai-Xai and Maputo, where this was felt in high intensity by the residents.

I called my father soon after the first shaking, and he said panic had also been generated at home and in the neighborhood. He felt the earth moving; the house shook, including the bed in the bedrooms, and his granddaughter was unconscious for some minutes. She has now recovered, thanks to God.

We also felt it, but with minor intensity.

We have no experience in this situation, and the uncertainty is high precisely because we lack experts in this area in the country. One private TV station did a tremendous job, calming people and instructing on what to do if another event occurs. It is said that Harare, Zimbabwe, and Durban, South Africa, were also hit by this phenomenon. I will provide more if something happens. 

5:24 a.m. 23 Feb.: Balance of damages: 2 deaths and 28 injured. 

8:35 a.m. 23 Feb.: Bishop Joao Somane Machado is grateful for concerns and prayers and writes, “Thanks be to God, we are well.” (Machado is out of the country at this time; this message received through Thomas Kemper, Germany Annual Conference.)

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert

The quake caused some equipment problems in the Mozambique Episcopal Office, according to staffer Maria Helena Feluane.
8:50 a.m. 23 Feb.: Maria Helena Feluane, Mozambique Episcopal Office, reports damages in the central and southern parts of the country: For example, here in the office, some computers and other gadgets went off because of the electricity oscillation. We were all in panic. Most of us could not sleep since that time, without knowing what to do, but now we are calm. PRAISE THE LORD. Thank you for your concern and prayers. May the Lord bless us all.

9:25 a.m. 23 Feb.: Antonio Jacob, at United Methodist-related Chicuque Rural Hospital, reports: We are safe! No damage, no injury in Chicuque. We did not know in advance, so most of the people like me were sleeping, and when that happened ? it was like dreaming being in airplane ... Thank you very much for your concern. It is amazing.

2:34 a.m. 24 Feb.: Rev. Chembeze reports: I just want to let you know that I got a phone call from Africa University (in Mutare, Zimbabwe) saying that they also felt heavily the effects. I think it was because of the distance from the epicenter of the whole thing. It is true that it was felt as well in Harare and Durban. Fortunately we are all fine and safe. We give thanks to God for keeping us and granting us the opportunity to witness the wonders of the creation.

May God hold our sisters and brothers in Mozambique in God’s arms. 

Messages of caring can be sent through Mozambique Initiative representative Ezequiel Nhantumbo in Maputo at; Council on Ministries Director Jacob Jenhuro in Beira at; Bishop Machado at or; or Jeremias Franca at Chicuque Rural Hospital at

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