Page last updated at 15:55 GMT, Sunday, 29 April 2007 16:55 UK

Hundreds of quake homes damaged

An elderly lady is helped by police officers
Police officers had to help one resident from her home

Hundreds of houses in Folkestone have been damaged by the earthquake which struck parts of Kent.

Council officials say 73 buildings are so dangerous residents cannot return to them because of loose chimney stacks, tiles and masonry.

They have received 474 calls from people worried about the impact of the 4.3 magnitude tremor on their homes.

The Association of British Insurers said the insurance cost for the damage could reach "single figure millions".

The quake which struck on Saturday morning was the largest to hit Britain since one in the West Midlands in 2002.

It struck at 0819 BST but resulted in only one person, a 30-year-old woman, suffering minor head injuries.

Most residents forced from their homes sought refuge with families and friends, but a small number had to be housed in emergency accommodation.

DAMAGED PROPERTIES
474 properties reported damaged by earthquake
73 so dangerous that people cannot return
30 more where people have been advised not to return
64 can be returned to but work must be done within 48 hours

'No serious injuries'

Folkestone and Hythe Conservative MP Michael Howard, who visited the Salvation Army rest centre where 10 people stayed overnight, said he was grateful that the community escaped relatively unscathed.

"I think we have got off remarkably lightly. Obviously there is a fair amount of damage, a lot of chimney stacks down and it is tough on all those people who weren't able to spend the night at home.

"But when you consider there were no serious injuries and no real devastating damage to property, I think we have got off remarkably lightly."

Friday Rase, 29, a resident of Canterbury Road, Folkestone said the earthquake had caused cracks to appear in each of the rooms of her flat.

She said: "We looked inside again this morning and the cracks appear to have got worse.

"We don't know what we're going to do. We're staying at my sister's at the moment but we may have to go into temporary accommodation.

"My initial thought was that it was a gas explosion and the chimney had come down. The noise was unbelievable."

QUAKES IN THE UK
December 2006 - Dumfries and Galloway (magnitude 3.5)
September 2002 - Dudley, West Midlands (5.0)
October 2001 - Melton Mowbray (4.1)
September 2000 - Warwick (4.2)
April 1990 - Bishop's Castle, Shropshire (5.1)
July 1984 - Nefyn, north Wales (5.4)
June 1931 - in North Sea near Great Yarmouth (6.1)

Teams of structural engineers and surveyors are assessing damaged buildings and co-operating closely with fire crews to make dangerous properties safe.

Alistair Stewart, the chief executive of Shepway District Council, said the clear-up operation was likely to take "quite a few weeks".

He added that engineers from other parts of Kent will be drafted in to help share the workload.

Experts from the British Geological Survey said the epicentre of the quake was 7.5 miles off the Dover coast in the English Channel.

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

Kent Fire and Rescue Service took more than 400 emergency calls about concerns ranging from structural damage to gas smells.



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Officials assessing the damage to homes



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