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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Is Africa dividing in two?

Por Nina

Scientific discussions about the African continent being divided into two parts have been stoked after a huge crack appeared on the ground in Kenya on March 19 in the middle of an important Narok county road. The crack, several kilometers long, is about 15 meters deep and more than 20 meters wide and represents only a manifestation of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other weak points in the Great Rift Valley, which crosses the continent from the Horn of Africa to Mozambique, reports the local newspaper Daily Nation.

The fissure appeared in the area with less seismic activity of Kenya's Rift, Sara Figueras Vila, of the Geophysics and Seismology Area of the Cartographic and Geological Institute of Catalonia, told La Vanguardia. "The last major earthquake took place in 1928, with a magnitude of 6.9 on the Richter scale, and since then there has been almost no seismic activity," she said.

The appearance of the crack without any recent earthquake in the area seems an unexpected and worrisome event, but local geologist David Adede explained to the Daily Nation that it is due to the tectonic and volcanic activities of the past: at the bottom of the valley is the volcano Suswa, also close to Mount Longonot volcano, so there could be many hidden volcanic faults. "Although the crack has remained tectonically inactive in the recent past, there could be deep movements within the earth's crust that have created zones of weakness that extend to the surface," the scientist explained. These zones of weakness form fault lines and fissures that are normally filled with volcanic ash. In addition, recently in the area there have been heavy rains that have taken away the ashes and have eventually exposed the cracks.

Four countries in the Horn of Africa - Somalia, half of Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania - will be separated from Africa to form a new continent, based on the tectonic plaza known as 'the Somali Plate', at approximately 10-50 million years, according to several geological studies. The process began in 2005 with the appearance of a crack of more than 60 kilometers in Ethiopia after the eruption of the Dabbahu volcano. The failure has not stopped growing since then and a dozen new cracks have appeared over a period of four years, British scientists reported in 2009. Since then, the theory of dividing Africa into two parts has gained considerable popularity in the scientific world.

Although some experts, like the Kenyan seismologist Silas Simiyu, do not agree that the recent crack is a manifestation of the division of the African continent. In an interview with NTV Kenya, Simiyu said the recent fissure is not a volcanic fault, but was formed due to abundant rainfall in the area. According to this scientist, the layers of earth collapsed due to the rains and filled the underground water channels.