In Brief

Africa splitting in two: what's happening to the continent?

Huge chasm 65ft wide appears in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley after heavy rains

Heavy rains have opened up a giant chasm in Kenya, leading to predictions that the African continent will split into two. 

The crack in the Great Rift Valley, which appeared mid-March, measures more than 50ft in depth, 65ft across and several miles in length, reports National Geographic

The sudden appearance of the chasm, which caused part of the Nairobi-Narok highway to collapse, was exacerbated by seismic activity in the region, PBS reports.

A witness said the opening appeared so quickly he was able to watch it form and run through his home, reports Reuters. He only just managed to collect some of his belongings before his house collapsed.

The crack appeared along the 3,700 mile-long East African Rift, where the Somali tectonic plate in the east and the Nubian plate in the west move away from each other, adds National Geographic. 

“Eventually, the Somali plate may completely separate from the Nubian plate and form a separate land mass comparable to Madagascar or New Zealand. Fortunately for those who live there, that separation isn't expected to happen for another 50 million years,” it continues. “It does mean, however, that the physical effects of that separation will continue to be felt.”

According to a paper published in Nature, the East African Rift System “remains one of the least monitored tectonic plate boundaries, which makes it challenging to constrain present-day seismic hazards”, meaning further damage to infrastructure in the region may take place unless authorities “plan [the region’s] infrastructure accordingly, saving lives and livelihoods in the process”, Slate adds.

It is expected that an enormous section of East Africa will break away from the main continent, but not for tens of millions of years.

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