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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 May 2007, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
Quake town's 1,500 damaged homes
A firefighter inspecting a damaged chimney
More than 2,000 calls reporting damage have been received
The number of homes damaged by the earthquake in Kent has risen to 1,500 with scores of families unable to return until properties are made safe.

Shepway council said the damage across Folkestone ranged from loose brickwork to minor cracks on internal walls.

Chief Constable Mike Fuller, chairman of the Kent Resilience Forum which co-ordinates emergency planning, has praised agencies for their response.

The quake, measuring 4.3 on the Richter scale, originated in the Channel.

It was felt as far away as Suffolk and Sussex.

The most severely damaged buildings are now expected to be made safe by tonight
Michael Fuller

Mr Fuller said the council had received more than 2,000 calls reporting damaged homes, and 18 building inspectors and surveyors had been working their way through the properties.

The police chief said: "At the time I visited, about 40 properties were still unfit for people to return to."

He also said temporary accommodation had been found for about five families who could not make other arrangements.

"I understand that the most severely damaged buildings are now expected to be made safe by tonight," he said on Tuesday.

'Very frightened' people

Praising the emergency response, Mr Fuller said it was "thanks to our tried, tested and well-exercised plans" that there had been "highly effective co-ordination and cooperation between the agencies involved".

Police, fire, ambulance, council and army staff set up one co-ordination group at the force's headquarters in Maidstone.

A second group in Folkestone co-ordinated the response in the town.

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An emergency centre staffed by the Salvation Army, Shepway council, the NHS and Kent social services looked after people who could not return to their homes.

Mr Fuller also praised the work of Kent Police and the way they offered help to people who were "clearly very frightened".

A debrief session will be held with all agencies involved to look at what worked well and what could be done differently, he said.

The 4.3 magnitude earthquake struck at 0819 BST on Saturday, with the epicentre 7.5 miles (12km) off the coast of Dover.

Find out more about earth tremors on our shores


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