Surrey earthquake felt like an ‘explosion’ when it hit in early hours, residents say

It's the latest of more than 20 seismic shakes in last year, which residents fear are being caused by nearby oil drilling

Colin Drury
Saturday 04 May 2019 18:29
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Gatwick airport, close to epicentre of latest Surrey earthquake
Gatwick airport, close to epicentre of latest Surrey earthquake

Buildings shook after the latest in a series of earthquakes struck Surrey in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Residents described fearing there had been an “explosion” after the 2.5 magnitude shaker hit at 1.19am.

It follows at least 20 similar quakes in the county in little more than a year – with many residents saying they fear the new seismic activity may be linked to oil and gas exploration being conducted at Horse Hill near Gatwick airport.

A spokeswoman for the British Geological Survey said: “Around 100 reports from members of the public in the epicentral area have been received so far and many others have taken to social media to report their experience. Typical reports described ‘windows and doors shook’, ‘felt like some sort of explosion’ and ‘a loud bang woke me up’.”

One Crawley resident, Samantha Ferguson, wrote on Twitter: “My whole flat just shook underneath me.”

Preliminary information indicated the quake centred on the village of Newdigate – also close to the Horse Hill drilling site – and had struck at a depth of 2.3km.

Speaking after the four previous tremors, Stephen Hicks, seismologist at Imperial College London, said scientists were keeping an open mind on possible causes.

He said: “It is most likely that these earthquakes are natural – due to small tectonic stresses occurring on old geological faults caused by stresses from our nearest plate boundaries in the mid-Atlantic and Mediterranean.”

But Stuart Haszeldine, a professor with the University of Edinburgh’s geology department, told the BBC he believed the well – drilled by UK Oil and Gas – was responsible for the “unprecedented” seismic activity.

“Whenever the oil and gas operators start preparing for some intervention, then there is a set of earthquakes,” he said. “It’s pretty straightforward.”

Previous quakes in the area – which included four in a single fortnight in February – have reached as high as 3.0 on the Richter scale.

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