Minor earthquake rumbles through Cumbria

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The Independent Online

No injuries or damage have been reported following an earthquake in Cumbria measuring 3.5 on the Richter scale, emergency services said today.

Many people were in bed when the tremor struck just before 11pm yesterday near Coniston and lasted for up to a minute. Some rushed out from their homes on to the street after the rude awakening.

The police and fire service received a number of calls from bewildered members of the public who were concerned at the late-night incident in which buildings wobbled.

Several listeners contacted radio stations in the county to say they compared the disruption to the sound of a washing machine. One said: "It was as if the washing machine was spinning with too much in it."

The earthquake was felt across the county and as far away as Lancashire, south-west Scotland, Northumberland and the Isle of Man.

Data from the British Geological Survey (BGS) showed the location of the quake at 2km (1.2 miles) north, north-west of Coniston, with a depth of 14.3km (8.9 miles). The rumble was also flagged up by the US Geological Survey.

BGS Head of Seismology Dr Brian Baptie said: "We get an earthquake of this size somewhere in the UK roughly every 12-18 months. Damage is very unlikely.

"An earthquake of this size and depth might be felt up to 80-100km away. The earthquake has probably made windows and doors rattle and small objects might have been displaced."

A similar earthquake with a magnitude of 3.7 on the Richter scale shook South Cumbria on April 28 2009.

There were no reports of casualties or damage following last year's mid-morning tremor which originated 5km (three miles) south-east of Ulverston, and which was felt across Cumbria and Lancashire.

Both Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service and Cumbria Police said they received a number of calls following last night's tremor but all were to query what had happened.

In a statement, Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service said: "We can confirm that following the earth tremor that occurred in Cumbria that we have received numerous calls from members of the public but at the present time we are not attending any incidents which are related to the earth tremor."

A spokesman for Cumbria Police said: "People rang in to say they had felt a tremor and were then told there had been an earthquake. We have had no reports of damages or injuries."

South Lakeland District Council said it had not been informed of any structural problems.

Last night, Peter Kelly, owner of the Yewdale Hotel in Coniston, said: "We felt the earthquake. It probably lasted about 30 seconds. It was quite noticeable.

"We were just closing up the bar with a few residents in and we just felt like a bang and then a rumbling but we couldn't decide what it was.

"There's no damage but there was a heavy rumbling."

Hotelier Alan Robertson, who was in his 30-bed hotel in Eskdale, near Whitehaven, described how the entire building shook.

"I was watching TV and there was this sort of really loud rumble. Then the entire building shook," he said.

"I ran out of the front door, only to be confronted by my guests running out of their part of the house. We couldn't believe it."

The 36-year-old, who had six guests at the Bower House Inn including a pregnant woman, added: "The tremor must have lasted 15 or 20 seconds.

"It was sizeable enough to shake an old and well-established building.

"If I lived in a city, I would have assumed it was an explosion.

"I am still in shock. I can barely get my thoughts together."

Susan Potter, geophysicist at the US Geological Society, said that in the last 40 years, six earthquakes had been recorded within 50km (31 miles) of yesterday's incident.

An earthquake measuring 4.7 hit Carlisle on Boxing Day 1979.

Recent quakes in the UK include one in February 2008, when a major tremor centred on Lincolnshire shook much of the UK, causing damage to buildings and leaving at least one person injured.

The tremor - which measured 5.2 on the Richter scale - struck at around 1am on February 27 at Market Rasen.

And in Kent in April 2007, another tremor measured 4.3 on the Richter scale.

Homes were damaged as chimneys toppled, walls cracked and masonry fell when the tremor hit Folkestone.