SA earthquake: Emergency services on high alert

The magnitude of the earthquake has now been revised to 5,5 on the Richter Scale.

Hartbeespoort aftermath of the earthquake. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - There are warnings this afternoon of aftershocks from a powerful earthquake which struck South Africa earlier today and has claimed one life.

The tremor was centred in Orkney, a town around 120 km southwest of Johannesburg, an area with a high concentration of deep gold mines.

Tremors from the earthquake were felt hundreds of kilometres away, even beyond South Africa's borders.

The magnitude of the earthquake has now been revised to 5,5 on the Richter Scale, up slightly from initial estimates by the US Geological Survey of 5,3.

The area around Johannesburg is not prone to seismic activity but it is home to some of the deepest gold mines in the world.

The quake is the largest in the southern Africa region since a 7.0 tremor in Zimbabwe in 2006.

Emergency services have confirmed that a man died in Klerksdorp in the North West.

ER24'S Werner Vermaak said the man, believed to be in his 30's, was killed by a wall that collapsed.

At the same time, Anglo Gold Ashanti says it's currently in the process of bringing employees up to the surface after a power cut at two of its mines caused the earthquake.

The company earlier confirmed 17 of its employees were injured after the earthquake struck near its Vaal River operation.

"Early indications are that 17 of our employees at Great Noligwa and Moab Khotsong mines sustained minor injuries," the company said in a statement.

Work at its mines has been halted until all employees have been brought up to surface.

Anglo Gold's Stewart Bailey says the safety of the miners is priority.

"We have safety systems like a diesel generator so that in an event of a power cut, we're able to bring people back up."

NORTH WEST HOUSES DAMAGED

The provincial government in the North West says 400 homes have been affected in the area.

North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo is visiting severely damaged homes in Khuma this evening.

He says government will assist affected families.

"We won't have time to visit all the affected houses but the municipality will attend to them."

Residents say they are still in shock.

Several homes have broken windows and cracked walls and some roofs have even caved in.

Residents claim they felt a second tremor a short while ago, adding they are scared of sleeping in their homes tonight.

Advanced rescue officials have arrived and are assessing the extent of damage at some of the homes.

GEOLOGISTS ANALYSE THE QUAKE

Geologist from the University Of Johannesburg Herman van Niekerk says he suspects the earthquake was triggered when an ancient fault line was disturbed.

"The old geological crust in the country is under stress and stress is being released by remobilisation of some of the old forts."

Eyewitness News the US Geological Survey Centre processes numerous reports each day of earthquakes around the world which are of a similar strength.

NO DAMAGE REPORTED IN JHB

Johannesburg Emergency Management Services (EMS) says there is no damage in and around the city.

Spokesperson Robert Malaudzi said there were no injuries reported but said teams were on standby.

Meanwhile, Eskom says it picked up the tremor at various stations around the country.

But the utility's Andrew Etzinger says it hasn't affected the stations' ability to produce power.