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One of Africa’s fastest-growing cities is not prepared for the earthquake it knows is coming

Two days after the 81st anniversary of Accra’s most destructive earthquake, three earth tremors in under 10 minutes shook the sleeping city on Thurs. June 24.

The main tremor, just before 11 pm local time, of magnitude 4.2 was described by officials at the Ghana Geological Survey Authority as a “small earthquake.”

While this is not the first time Ghana’s capital has experienced earth tremor, the frequency and intensity of recent tremors have left many residents worried about an imminent major earthquake. Even though far from the world’s major earthquake zones, “in West Africa, Ghana is the most seismically active [country],” says Dr. Paulina Amponsah, a seismologist and head of the National Data Center at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission.

Accra “is dotted with so many small fault lines and the geology is not uniform,” Amponsah, who has studied the history of earthquakes in Ghana, told Quartz Africa. Two major active fault lines, the Coastal Boundary Fault and Akwapim Fault zone intersect on the western edge of the greater metro area.

Between January 2018 and June 2020, the city has experienced eight earth tremors, mostly with magnitudes less than 4.

“What we are recording now are precursors or foreshocks. So it is just telling us that something may happen but as to when this [seismic] event will happen, nobody can say… That is why it is a worry and we need to prepare,” she adds.

The earliest known earthquake in the modern country was in 1615 and it destroyed a Portuguese slave fortress in the coastal town of Elmina. Many more have since been recorded across southern Ghana but the last major earthquake was on June 22, 1939, in Accra with a magnitude of 6.5. Seventeen people died and over 130 people were injured as a result of the earthquake which destroyed many buildings.

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