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Great Rift Valley Kenya
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Could this giant crack split Africa in two?

Seismic activity in the Great Rift Valley could tear the continent apart

Sophie Dickinson
Written by
Sophie Dickinson

It looks like something from a fantasy film: a 15-metre-wide abyss, tearing the earth in two. The terrifying sight emerged in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley after torrential rain and tremors. That’s obviously pretty unnerving for locals, and now some experts even reckon it could even cleave the continent in two.

Apparently, the giant crack was partially covered by volcanic ash, meaning locals didn’t realise the scale of the problem for some time. Scientists estimate that the crack is around 15 metres deep and appeared very quickly – even splitting a man’s house in two, according to local newspaper Daily Nation.

Beneath the Great Rift Valley are numerous constantly-moving tectonic plates, making the region very prone to seismic activity. This crack is a visible part of the 3,700-mile-long East African Rift, which is itself made up of the Gregory Rift and the Western Rift. These are growing larger, as the Somali tectonic plate in the east and the Nubian plate in the west move away from each other. 

Perhaps most shockingly, these two plates could eventually move so far apart that they split, forming two separate land masses out of Africa. While that sounds frightening, the timeline for that is extremely long-term – we’re talking around 50 million years. The effects of extreme weather events and the tremors from infrastructure projects could exacerbate the rifts, though, so expect to see more cracks forming in the region in the future. 

In the meantime, locals are filling in the crack with concrete and rocks. At least for now, the land mass is in one piece. 

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