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UK hit by strongest earthquake in 25 years

February 27, 2008 21:02 IST

An earthquake, the biggest in 25 years, jolted the United Kingdom on Wednesday and damaged property worth over 10 million pounds. The tremor, measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale, hit shortly before 1 am, with its epicentre in Lincolnshire, but people were woken as far away as Wales, Scotland and Yorkshire.

One person narrowly escaped death when a chimney smashed through the roof of his terraced home and crashed into his bedroom in Wombwell in South Yorkshire. The Association of British Insurers said that the cost of damage to homes and property is likely to be in excess of 10 million pounds.

The British Geological Survey initially gave the magnitude for the earthquake as 5.3 on the Richter scale but has now said it was closer to 5.2. It said the epicentre was eight km east of Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, and 22 km south west of Grimsby.

The tremor is the biggest in Britain since 1984, when north Wales was hit by a quake, which was registered at 5.4 on the Richter scale. People in Newcastle, Yorkshire, Manchester, the Midlands and Norfolk and also parts of Wales, felt the tremor.

Seismologist Dr Brian Baptie of the BGS said: "This is a significant earthquake for the UK and was widely felt across England and Wales."

A Lincolnshire police spokeswoman said the force had received dozens of calls from residents. "There is slight structural damage, cracks and a couple of chimneys damaged. There's nothing serious at present. Mostly people were distressed by it so there were a large quantity of calls coming in," he said.

The police in the Midlands received more than 5,000 calls in an hour and in Dudley, 12 people walked into the local police station in their pyjamas. The BGS said it records around 200 earthquakes in the UK each year. Buildings are deemed to be at risk from earthquakes above 5 on the Richter scale, according to the Environment Agency.

The United States Geological Survey claimed that while the event was "light to moderate on a world scale, it was very significant", given the UK's relatively uneventful seismic history.

Rafael Abreu, a geophysicist at the USGS National Earthquake Information Service, said: "It was a light to moderate event in relation to what has happened in Indonesia recently. But what is interesting about this event is that it was in an area where you would not expect it. In an seismic area like this, it is very significant."

The UK usually has minor activity -- it's not particularly seismic. The largest earthquake recorded in the UK was about 120 km from north east of Great Yarmouth in the North Sea on June 7, 1931. It measured 6.1 and was felt across Britain, in eastern Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and parts of Germany, France, Norway and Denmark.

H S Rao in London
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