At least 39 people have been killed and more than 300 hurt in a series of quakes in Africa's Great Lakes region.

The two most powerful occurred hours apart in the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighbouring Rwanda, with magnitudes of 6.0 and 5.0 respectively.

Officials in Rwanda said 34 people had died in the country's west, including 10 killed when a church collapsed.

Across the border in eastern DR Congo, the mayor of the town of Bukavu said five people had died there.

Rwandan local government minister Protais Musoni told the AFP news agency that rescue operations were continuing, with police and soldiers trying to pull people out from the ruins of their houses.


The first earthquake hit at about 0935 (0735 GMT), 20km (12 miles from Bukavu).

The second quake came just under three-and-a-half hours later, slightly closer to the town but in Rwandan territory. It was followed by two lesser tremors.

It was not clear how many casualties had been caused by each quake, but they combined to cause panic in both the Bukavu area and in Rwanda.

Rwandan radio said 10 people died when a church collapsed in Rusizi district.

Another 13 were killed in other parts of Rusizi and Nyamesheke district, the radio station said.

"I was at home when the earthquake hit and the next thing I heard was the house falling down," Florence Nyiranzoga told AFP from a hospital in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, where she had been air-lifted for treatment.

An official from the UN peacekeeping mission in DR Congo said damage in Bukavu was extensive.

"Many buildings have been hit. Lots of houses have completely collapsed," Jacqueline Chenard said.

The quakes were also felt in neighbouring Burundi, disrupting hydroelectric power and causing a half-hour electricity cut.

A powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the region in December 2005.

But while it is prone to seismic activity, it has mostly escaped major quakes in recent years.