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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Earthquake hits UK
Epicentre of the quake
The tremors began at approximately 0054 BST.
Large parts of England and Wales have been hit by an earthquake measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale.

Buildings shook for up to 30 seconds in parts of the West Midlands, Wales, North Yorkshire, London, and Wiltshire.

The tremor began at 0053 BST and its epicentre was in Dudley in the West Midlands.

There was minor structural damage as homes were shaken, but no reports of any injuries.

Aftershocks were felt later on Monday morning from what is thought to be the UK's largest earthquake for 10 years.

Glenn Ford, a senior seismologist at the British Geological Survey (BGS), said: "It's an extremely large earthquake in UK terms but not large in world terms; we'd only classify it as a light earthquake."

Pat Battison and daughter Sophie, 9, survey their smashed chimney
There was minor damage
BBC weather forecaster Pete Gibbs said: "It's not that unusual to have an earth tremor, but it is unusual to be that widespread and that widely reported.

"However, earth tremors are certainly not that uncommon in the UK."

West Midlands Police said they had 5,000 calls to their switchboard within an hour of the tremor happening and 600 calls to the 999 number.

Dudley police said 12 people in nightclothes walked into their local police station.

Sudden shocks

Julian Bukits, of the BGS, said an earthquake of magnitude four is equivalent to 1,000 tonnes of TNT - that in turn is equivalent to the power of a small nuclear weapon.

UK earthquakes (Richter scale measurements)
6.1 biggest ever recorded, about 120km off Great Yarmouth, 1931
5.4 biggest on land in Lleyn, north Wales, 1984
5.1 in Bishop's Castle, Shropshire, in 1990
4.2 in Warwick, Sept 2000
4.1 shook Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, Oct 2001
The BGS said the earthquake's epicentre could only be located to within about a kilometre, and not pinpointed to an exact street or address.

Dr David Kerridge, senior seismologist, said: "Aftershocks are a possibility but we wouldn't expect anything of the same magnitude."

Although Monday's earthquake was large by British standards, tremors in places like California, Japan and India can reach seven or more on the Richter scale.

The whole length of Wales was shaken and people over 120 miles (190 km) apart felt two sudden shocks.

'Frightening' experience

In south Wales, people in Cardiff, Newport, Caerphilly, the Vale of Glamorgan and as far west as Swansea, felt the powerful shocks.

Callers to the BBC reported doors slamming and windows rattling.

We felt nauseous afterwards

Adam Chater, UK
Many miles further north, in Wrexham, officers from North Wales Police said their control room in a tower block shook violently.

Richard Flynn, from Oldbury in the West Midlands, said: "The house started shaking quite violently at about 1am. All the power was cut off and seemed to be so for about a five-mile (8-km) radius.

"The shaking and trembling was really quite severe. Quite a few people came out of their houses wondering what was going on. The streets were in darkness."

Power was restored after about 20 minutes.

Ground swayed

One Birmingham resident, Alex Potter, told BBC Radio Five Live: "My first thought was it's a bomb and then an earthquake.

"There was an earthquake in Birmingham back in the fifties when I was a boy but back then the ground swayed. It was quite different this time."

World's worst recorded quakes
9.5 Chile 1960, killed 2,000
8.3 California 1906, killed 3,000
8.3 China 1976, killed 240,000
7.9 India 2001, killed 25,000
He added: "It was really quite frightening. I'm convinced there were two booms - lasting five or six seconds each."

Bill Wilson, who was duty inspector for Merseyside Police at the time of the tremor, said he took up to 30 calls from people who initially thought there was an intruder in their home or there had been an explosion.

"I've never had to take calls like this and some people I rang up myself thought I was winding them up but I had to assure them that I was serious."

Between 200 and 300 quakes occur in Britain each year, but only about 10% are strong enough to be felt.

Buildings are deemed to be at risk from a quake over 5 on the Richter scale, according to the Environment Agency.

The BBC's Fergus Walsh
"The shockwaves were felt by tens of thousands of people"
The BBC's Robert Hall in Dudley
"It's not often this area finds itself at the epicentre of anything"
Seismologist Professor Peter Styles
"An earthquake of this size happens once every 10 years"

How badly affected were you?
See also:

23 Sep 02 | Science/Nature
23 Sep 02 | England
23 Sep 02 | UK
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