Quake in Midlands prompts a flood of 999 calls

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The Independent Online

A chimney stack was the main casualty when a minor earthquake, measuring 3.8 on the Richter scale, struck the East Midlands last night.

A chimney stack was the main casualty when a minor earthquake, measuring 3.8 on the Richter scale, struck the East Midlands last night.

The British Geological Survey said the tremor, which caused structural damage to several buildings and prompted a flood of 999 calls in Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire, was centred five miles north of Melton Mowbray.

Hundreds of people rang police, wrongly believing the tremor to be an explosion.

Teresa Christian, whose chimney stack collapsed during the quake, said she initially feared a plane had crashed into her street. Ms Christian, 36, a postal worker from Thorpe Road, Melton Mowbray, only realised the stack had collapsed when she saw rubble through the window and went outside to see what had happened. The vibrations of the quake lasted several seconds.

"Everything was shaking," she said. "I heard the stack fall, but I didn't know what was happening. At first I thought a plane had crashed or a lorry had run into a house."

Two other buildings in Coalville and Burbage, both in Leicestershire, had also been damaged, a spokesman for Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service said.

The tremor, which occurred six miles below the earth's surface, was the biggest in the region since 1750. "That's quite a significant event," said David Falvey, Director of the Geological Survey.

Residents in Leicester said they had felt the tremor and reports said Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire were also affected.

Julian Bukits, a British Geological Survey assistant seismologist, based in Edinburgh, said the quake struck at 4.25pm yesterday, but there were no reports of injuries.

Mr Bukits said the tremor was considerably smaller than an earthquake centred on Warwick, which occurred in the West Midlands on 23 September last year. Britain was hit by a similar quake once every two years on average, he added.

Nottinghamshire Police urged members of the public yesterday not to ring them simply to report that they had felt the tremor. Although Britain is not a seismic area, it often experiences small earth tremors, some of which are associated with the collapse of old coal mines.

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