An earthquake measuring 5.7 on the Richter scale struck on September 10th in Kagera region, in the far north-west of the country. Reports vary on the precise extent of damage caused, but at least 19 people died as a result, and over 500 were injured, the majority in and around the town of Bukoba or in Missenyi District to the north. Over 2,000 buildings were destroyed and thousands more were damaged. Damage and deaths were also reported in neighbouring Uganda, though the effects of the quake there were smaller.
The Kagera regional commissioner, Major General Salum Kijuu, described the quake as a “major disaster. … We have never seen anything like this before … this is the first time in history that an earthquake has caused so much damage and loss of life in Tanzania.”
“Thousands of people who have been left homeless after this earthquake are being sheltered in schools, while we try to mobilise tents to accommodate them,” he added.
The government quickly established a response fund and encouraged public donations, with around TSh 5bn raised within four weeks. This includes contributions both from within and outside the country. Significant donations came were provided by the business and media tycoon, Reginald Mengi, (TSh 110m), the Chinese embassy in Dar es Salaam (TSh 100m), Mohamed Enterprises Limited (TSh 100m), Tanzania Breweries Limited (TSh 100m), and several oil marketing companies.
A particularly generous donation came from the government of India: TSh 545m. The Indian ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Sandeep Arya, read a message to President Magufuli from India’s Prime Minister Mahendra Modi. In the letter, Mr Modi said he and people in India “pray for patience among families which have lost their loved ones. We are assuring them that we are together with our friends in Tanzania especially during this hard time.”
There was criticism later in parliament that some aspects of the government’s response had been slow, with less than 20% of the funds raised having been spent by the end of October.
There were criticisms too of the country’s preparedness for such disasters. “The nation faces a huge problem with regard to disaster management funding and other challenges. Instead, we’re developing a culture of fund-raising even in areas that the government is required to pick the bill,” said Tanzania Human Right Defenders Coalition (THRDC) national coordinator, Mr Onesmo Olegurumwa. “The donated [funds] will help in addressing the immediate problems on the ground, but the government should now start to build its own capacity as well.”
President Magufuli also had to move quickly to prevent some from taking advantage of the quake. According to a statement from his office: “The President has revoked the appointment of Kagera Regional Administrative Secretary and Bukoba Municipal Council Executive Director after he learnt that the two opened a bank account which bears the same name as the one which was opened by the government.” The statement explained that they intended to use the account to collect money for their own benefit. (The Citizen, Daily News, The Guardian)