On 26 September 2020, at 19:10 SAST, a magnitude 6.2 Earthquake struck approximately 1600 km south-east of South Africa. Following the event, tremors were felt in various Western Cape suburbs with no reports of casualties or damages to infrastructure, and no tsunami warning was issued.
On 27 September 2020, at 09:12 SAST, a magnitude 2.3 earthquake (tremor) was felt 9km north of Cape Town, South Africa. Tremors were again experienced in several suburbs with no reports of casualties or damages to infrastructure, and no tsunami warning was issued.
The Council of Geoscience (CGS), have issued media statements pertaining to the tremors that occurred, urging the public not to panic as the are no imminent threats to public safety.
The CGS is the custodian of the South African National Seismograph Network which monitors seismic wave activities throughout the country.
According to the Council for Geoscience, the difference between an earthquake and an earth tremor lies in the magnitude of the event. Within the South African context, a seismic event with a magnitude lower than 4.0 is considered a tremor.
The Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell says recent seismic activity in Cape Town is no cause for panic.
“We’re fortunate in the fact that the African continent is on a very stable tectonic plate. We do not have major fault lines. Specifically, Southern Africa is on a very stable faultline. This means our risk for earthquakes and tsunamis are very low. While there is always some seismic risk, we don’t believe there is a real threat for a mega earthquake of seven or more on the Richter scale in the Western Cape. While we can never rule it out completely, the science doesn’t support it. It also bears noting that a 7 on the Richter scale is considered to be 33 times stronger than a 6.”
Bredell says the nuclear plant Koeberg, which would be most at risk to major seismic activity, was built to withstand a lot of seismic activity including being built on shock-absorbers.
“Furthermore, the Western Cape government, over the past ten years, has developed an excellent disaster response system to save people from trapped buildings in a disaster situation should the need arise. At the moment we have two caches of highly specialised rescue equipment including high pressure airbags that can lift up to 120 tons at a time. We also have highly trained dogs that are trained to find people who may be trapped during a disaster.”
The province has 160 highly trained urban search and rescue technicians who can be called upon at short notice in the event of a major disaster.
Western Cape disaster teams are often called to assist with global crises, gaining invaluable experience that can be applied locally.
“Members of our teams have responded to 9 major earthquakes across the world since 1999 including Haiti in 2010 and Japan in 2011. These experiences further enable their skill levels and experience. In addition there are numerous training exercises every year to ensure a permanent state of readiness.”
The City of Cape Town urges the public to report any potential impacts to their Public Emergency Communication Centre by dialing 021 480 7700 from a cellphone or 107 from a landline.
The Western Cape Disaster Management Centre is in contact with the Council of Geoscience, the National Disaster Management Centre as well as all key stakeholders who are jointly monitoring the situation. The Western Cape Provincial Disaster Management Centre as well as the City of Cape Towns Disaster Risk Centre are still activated for COVID-19 and are on standby for any disaster events.