The small Indian Ocean island of Mayotte continues to experience an earthquake swarm that began on May 10, according to BRGM Mayotte, the France-based geological agency serving the territory. Schools in some parts of the island have now been temporarily closed as a precaution.
Several hundred earthquakes have been recorded since the swarm – consistent with seismic activity last seen in the 1980s – began. They include a 5.8 magnitude earthquake on May 15, the largest ever recorded in the Comoros archipelago region that includes Mayotte. Three people had minor injuries, with some building damage reported.
In an updated statement Friday, the BRGM said Mahorans continue to feel rumbling earthquakes that included a 5.4-quake in the previous 24-hour period, the second largest since the episode began. The agency is now completing an update every day and said that a larger event cannot be ruled out, in part because of the limited knowledge about the region.
“A seismic swarm is a succession of earthquakes that occur in a given place over a period of days or weeks,” the agency said. “There is not, strictly speaking, a main earthquake which stands out from the others, but a succession of earthquakes … hardly distinguishable from each other,” they added.
The BRGM said other earthquakes of similar magnitude will likely be felt in days to come. “These earthquakes do not produce damage and, although at sea, are too weak to generate tsunamis,” the agency said.
Mayotte, a troubled territory disputed by neighboring Comoros and the French, does not have a history of large or frequent quakes. A 5.2-magnitude event in 1993 previously was the strongest recorded in at least 60 years, and no destructive earthquake greater than a 6.0 is recorded at the island.
Mayotte is the oldest volcanic island in the Comoros Basin grouping, the BRGM said, and quakes likely are the result of seismic hot spot as well as the island’s position along the East African rift.