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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008, 17:53 GMT
'Costly payout' after earthquake
Chimney damage to two houses in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.
Insurance claims are expected to run to millions of pounds

Householders are clearing up and assessing the damage in the aftermath of the biggest earthquake in the UK for nearly 25 years.

Insurance experts said claims for structural damage and broken belongings were set to run into tens of millions of pounds.

People across the UK reported feeling the tremor just before 0100 GMT.

The epicentre of the 5.2 magnitude quake was near Market Rasen in Lincolnshire.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) said it had received reports of people having felt the tremor from as far as Bangor in Northern Ireland, Haarlem in Holland, Plymouth and Edinburgh.

Scientists said while the tremor was small on a global scale, they described the earthquake as a "rare beast" and "significant" for the UK.

They said they believed the earthquake could have been caused by an old fault line in the East Midlands rupturing.

Norwich Union, the UK's largest general insurer, said it began to receive calls within hours of the tremor.

April 2007 - Folkestone, Kent (magnitude 4.3)
December 2006 - Dumfries and Galloway (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)

Jason Harris, senior claims manager, said the firm had received a number of calls overnight and expected further claims to be made when the extent of the damage became more clear.

He said: "At the moment these are reports of mainly minor damage such as tiles off roofs, breakages inside the homes and brick walls collapsing."

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said claims were "likely to run into the low tens of millions of pounds."

But a spokesman said: "One event of this nature will not push up premiums across the board.

"Insurers expect to deal with these incidents."

'Flew across floor'

People across the country reported how they had been woken by the "enormous roar" of the earthquake, which caused houses to shake and masonry to fall from buildings.

A 19-year-old student, David Bates, suffered a broken pelvis when part of a chimney stack crashed through his ceiling and onto his bed as he watched television at his home in Wombwell, South Yorkshire.

A householder surveys the damage to his home in South Yorkshire
Many homes suffered structural damage

Lincolnshire Police said they had received more than 200 calls from concerned residents.

In Market Rasen, the Lincolnshire town nearest the epicentre, one resident spoke of being thrown from his bed by the force of the tremor.

Rex Clarke said: "It was like I was made of cotton wool - I just flew across the floor.

"It woke me up with a tremendous roar. I thought I was going crackers."

In Gainsborough, Red Cross volunteers were called out to provide "emotional and practical support" to about 14 people whose homes and cars were damaged.

Anita Moore, fire and emergency support co-ordinator, said: "The first incident we went to was an elderly lady whose property was badly damaged.

"There was a lot of rubble on the floor and the fire service was concerned about her chimney.

"She was really shaken up but we were able to comfort her and gave her advice on how to contact her insurance company."

The team was also called to help a man whose chimney had fallen off his house. Nearby houses were evacuated because of concerns about structural damage to the properties.

Meanwhile, householders in Greater Manchester flooded the fire service with calls.

Northamptonshire Police, Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Norfolk Police also reported being flooded with hundreds of calls about the tremor.

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