Earth tremor hits Kent

FOLKESTONE (Reuters) - Kent was hit by a small earthquake on Saturday that brought down power lines and caused structural damage.

Slideshow ( 6 images )

Kent Police worked with emergency services in the coastal town of Folkestone -- the area worst hit by the tremor -- to handle over 200 emergency calls. 135 firefighters, some using specialist equipment, were deployed.

A 30-year-old woman suffered a minor head and neck injury. There were no reports of serious injuries.

“We can be genuinely thankful so few people were injured,” said Chief Superintendent Alasdair Hope.

Experts gave differing estimates of the earthquake’s strength with the U.S. Geological Survey measuring the tremor’s magnitude at 4.7 on the Richter scale while the British Geological Survey put it at 4.3.

“It’s similar to ones in 1950 and 1776,” said Dr Roger Musson of the British Geological Survey (BGS). “We’re quite fortunate that it’s as small as it is.”

The earthquake brought down power lines with several thousand homes affected, but EDF Energy Networks said service were quickly restored in the Folkestone and Dover areas.

After the earthquake, local residents called television stations to report feeling the ground shake, cracks appearing in homes and chimneys being brought down.

“It woke me. It felt like an explosion and my bedroom started shaking backwards and forwards. It was a violent, violent rattle,” Alison Reiney told Sky News.

Lorraine Muir said chimneys had come down, gas and electricity supplies were off and people were evacuated from their homes by the Salvation Army.

The earthquake had no effect on international travel services with Eurotunnel, which runs cross-channel rail links to France from its terminal near Folkestone on the English coast, running normally.

A spokesman at nearby Dover, one of the busiest ferry ports in Europe, also said “There has been no impact on ferries or on checking in.”

The tremor, which struck at 8:18 a.m. , was the largest British earthquake since the one that hit Dudley in the West Midlands in 2002.

“Damaging earthquakes are rare but not unknown in the UK, and the Kent region is one of those areas that has experienced them before,” said Professor Bill McGuire, the director of Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre.

“Two big quakes shook the Dover Straits in 1382 and 1580, reportedly causing widespread damage in adjacent areas of England and France.”

McGuire said the largest recent tremor in Britain was the 1931 Dogger Bank earthquake, which measured 6.1 on the Richter scale and was felt in France and Belgium.”