Thunduwike is located north of Mzimba border with Rumphi district. It is about 38Km drive from Rumphi Boma via Vwaza. It has been two years now since earth tremors started hitting Thunduwike and Kazuni areas in Mzimba north and Rumphi South respectively. The first of the series of tremor occurrences was felt end of January, 2008. The trend seemed to have gone into a period of quiescence until June, 2008 when they resurfaced. This time, it was one event after the other, leaving people in total fear and hopelessness as houses cracked at will. Sometimes, a total of fifteen events would be felt on a single day. This prompted local residents to sound an SOS through the District Commissioner’s office in Mzimba.
The Government later responded by dispatching a team of five scientists into the area to conduct investigations much to the relief of the residents. Surprisingly, all tremor occurrences were very local which means that only areas within Thunduwike and Kazuni were able to feel the shaking. Villages located outside a radius of 8Km from Thunduwike were not able to feel anything in terms of ground shaking. The affected villages are: Vwandamire, Butani Nyirenda, Thembani Mkandawire, Eneya Mjumira, Chiwara Mzumara, Kamangadazi, Machisamu Mkandawire, Mbulo Kabila, Diyere Mjumira, Kazuni and Vwaza. The most affected of the villages is Thembani Mkandawire. This made people come up with various assumptions which included:
- End of the world as indicated in the Bible
- Work of witchcraft resulting from disgruntled tobacco tenants who were not paid their dues after working in tobacco farms.
- Volcanic eruption etc.
But what did the teams of scientists from Geological Survey Department find out? Why the area was experiencing this? Was this connected to previous tremors in Mpherembe in 1993/1994 and 1998? These questions were what residents wanted to know. The report by the scientists attribute these occurrences to faulting. The reactivation of faults could be directly associated with tremors in the area thereby, making it vulnerable to earthquakes or tremors since geological processes are continuing to take place. This can be evidenced by the trend of seismic activities from Mpherembe which means that faults being rejuvenated are now towards the northern part. The area is also characterized by major and minor fault systems some of which, have just been rejuvenated.
The monitoring exercise lasted three months from August, 2008 during which, an average of four events were monitored each day and damage to residential houses, school blocks, churches and office buildings continued to be noticed and widening with each shaking that occurred. The hypocentral depth of all events monitored was 15Km.
The impact of ground shaking can not be underestimated as some rocks were breaking or displaced.
The majority of the buildings are of mdindo type, while a few are built from un-burnt or burnt bricks, grass-thatched and iron-roofed. Most of the buildings were built without professional expertise, a thing which is common in rural areas. Considering the poor construction materials used and the superficial deposits of the area, most of the buildings are vulnerable to ground shaking as evidenced by the numerous affected houses or buildings.
Are tremors still being felt in the area up to now? According to contacts in the area, occassionally there are some occurrences of up to two per week. Sometimes the number increases so too the fear that keeps on gripping the minds of people of Thunduwike and Kazuni. “For how long shall this go on?” Asked one villager. Everyone hopes that their prayers will be answered and tremors completely stop. But a thorough research is needed to reach a conclusive decision regarding the area.
Villagers were advised not to use any heavily cracked houses or buildings as these could be death traps. They should always stay vigilant and not panic when running out of their houses. In addition to this, they should report to Geological Survey Department any strange occurrences regarding the tremors.