The British Geological Survey (BGS – http://www.earthquakes.bgs.ac.uk/) recorded an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.2 (ML) on the Richter scale near Market Rasen, Lincolnshire at 00:56 GMT, yesterday, Feb. 27.
While mild by global standards, earthquakes are relatively rare in the British Isles. This was the strongest recorded in 25 years, and triggered a wave of phone calls from panicked residents to the BGS and local emergency services.
The BGS said the “epicenter is approximately 4 km north of Market Rasen and reports suggest that the earthquake has been felt widely across England, with reports of damage to chimneys in the epicentral area. Earthquakes of this size occur in the mainland UK roughly every 30 years, although are more common in offshore areas. This is the largest earthquake in the UK since the magnitude 5.4 ML Lleyn Peninsula earthquake in 1984, which was widely felt across England and Wales.”
The BGS warned the public to be prepared for aftershocks, but indicated they would in all likelihood cause little further damage. The BGS said it “records approximately 200 earthquakes in the UK each year on its monitoring stations. Approximately 25 earthquakes in the UK are felt by people each year.”
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) issued a statement reassuring the public that “damage to homes or businesses from earthquake will normally be covered by insurance. If property is unsafe or cannot be occupied the costs of making it safe or of alternative accommodation will also be included. Claims should be notified as soon as possible and arrangements will be made for a loss adjuster to visit as soon as possible.” A preliminary loss estimate puts damages at around £10 million ($20 million).
Risk Management Solutions (RMS) issued a bulletin assessing the quake’s impact. “Fortunately, the earthquake’s epicenter appeared to be in a fairly rural part of Lincolnshire. Had it occurred closer to one of the nearby towns and cities where the populations are far larger, we could be looking at a very different situation in terms of the damage caused,” explained Dr. Andrew Sorby, model manager for Europe earthquake at RMS.
He also noted: “The UK is at relatively low risk of earthquakes, and only in extreme cases will buildings collapse and cause injuries and fatalities. But as residential properties are generally not designed to withstand shaking, even small earthquakes can cause damage by cracking walls and overtopping chimneys, for instance.”
A bulletin from Boston-based AIR Worldwide indicated that “US Geological Survey (USGS) has assigned a moment magnitude (Mw) of 4.7.” The estimates are, however, “preliminary and subject to revision as information from seismic networks continues to be analyzed,” said AIR.
Milan Simic, Managing Director of AIR Worldwide, explained: “The UK sits on the western edge of the Eurasian Plate. Most earthquake activity in the UK is concentrated in one of four areas: Wales, the Strait of Dover, the Pennines and Scotland. Today’s earthquake occurred in the southeastern tip of the Pennines with a preliminary European Macroseismic Scale (EMS) intensity rating of 6.”
The largest earthquake ever recorded in England in modern times was an offshore 6.1 event in 1931, 100 kms (60 miles) northeast of the current quake site.
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