Earthquake: 600 homes affected

Other buildings that were affected include government departments, municipal centres and clinics.

House damaged by earthquake in Khuma township, Stilfontein. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo says the number of homes affected by an earthquake that struck the country has now risen to 600.

The 5.5 magnitude quake struck South Africa shortly after midday yesterday.

One man was killed when a wall collapsed on him while 21 miners at Anglo Gold Ashanti were injured.

The premier today revealed the extent of the damage but says government has not yet been able to estimate the cost.

Mahumapelo says other buildings that were affected in the province include government departments, municipal centres and clinics.

In and around Orkney, the epicentre of the tremor, the ceilings of eight classrooms caved in.

He says they will now evacuate people from unstable houses.

"Trucks have been provided for evacuating citizens and so has furniture. We are also engaging stakeholders who can help in making sure that we strengthen our contingency plan."

At the same time, the North West Department of Education has praised teachers at two schools near Orkney for their swift reaction in ensuring the safety of pupils during yesterday's earthquake.

Dr Kenneth Kaunda municipality district director Hasimbhay Motara says the teachers should be applauded for evacuating pupils as soon as the quake hit.

"Fortunately, no learners were injured and we must take our hats off to the teachers who were proactive."

Meanwhile, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has called on mining companies to make sure their safety measures are firmly in place in case of aftershocks or new earthquakes.

Cosatu also wants the companies to offer counselling to miners affected by yesterday's earthquake.

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.

EARTHQUAKE: AFTERSHOCKS IMMINENT

As government begins to assess the damage in parts of South Africa, geoscientists are warning of potential aftershocks in the days to come.

The Council for Geoscience's Michelle Grobbelaar says, "There's a rule of thumb that if you experience an earthquake with a certain magnitude in the past, you can always expect an earthquake of a similar magnitude in that same area."

The earthquake was felt in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, the Free State and as far as Botswana.

Emergency services have been placed on high alert.

Meanwhile, the Council for Geoscience says it's difficult to determine the influence of mining activity on the earthquake.

The council's Denver Birch says it's difficult to prove mining is to blame.

"You can imagine they're moving millions of tons of rock every day and something has to fill that gap so the stress gets transferred.

"To say that the mining directly influenced it is difficult to prove. Simply because we didn't have a station set up 50 years ago that could have told us this area has a history of magnitude fives."

Video: Earthquake in Khuma.