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Everything you need to know about the Kent megaquake


The earth moved for Kent residents last night, as an earthquake hit in the early hours of the morning.

The quake originated near Sandwich, five miles south of Ramsgate, at a depth of 15km underground, at precisely 2:52am. Predictably, people immediately took to social media to find out what had happened, while the police were apparently 'inundated' with calls, although we're not quite sure what people were expecting them to do about it.

So, just how close was Kent to experiencing a San Andreas-style earthquake disaster wipeout?

It's nothing compared to Nepal

The quake measured 4.2 on the richter scale, which is solid enough, but nothing compared to Nepal's recent devastating event, which measured 7.8. Despite there being a number difference of only 3.6 between the two readings, the scale is logarithmic, meaning that, for example, a 2.0 quake is ten times bigger than a 1.0. The British Geological Survey twitter account handily summarised this, informing followers that Kent's was 260,000 times smaller than Nepal's. So, quite a lot smaller then.

It's far from the biggest recorded in the UK, but it's still sizeable

However, before we play it down, a 4.2 was still pretty big for the UK. The largest known British earthquake was a 6.1 affair, which occured near the Dogger Bank in 1931 - fortunately, 60 miles offshore - and it caused minor damage to buildings on the east coast of England. The most damage suffered following a Britquake was after an 1884 tremor in Colchester, way back in 1884, with 1200 buildings requiring repair. The UK experiences a magnitude 4 earthquake every two years and a magnitude 5 around every ten to twenty years; current research suggests the maximum we could ever have is 6.5, so you shouldn't have too many sleepless nights about the world crashing down around you.

There were the usual hilarious reactions from people

As well as the aforementioned calls to police, social media was full of the usual reactions we've come to know and love from the Brits in a crisis. "It was all very frightening. It seemed to go on for ages but it was about three to five seconds." said Theresa Ford, from Eastry near Sandwich. Not really ages then.

Jake West told The Guardian, “At 3am it’s normally quiet. There was silence, then there was shaking. It was very odd. It felt like there was someone very heavy who was stomping down the stairs.” Frightening stuff all round.

Most importantly, it was an excellent opportunity for Rhodri Marsden to update his fantastic "Quotes from the media about British Earthquakes", which you can enjoy in all its glory below.

Rhodri Earthquakes

Meanwhile, the rest of Twitter reacted with its customary wit.

Kent earthquake

It's not well-understood why they happen in the UK

"But why", we hear you cry, "do earthquakes happen at all in the UK? For our humble nation does not lie on the boundary between two tectonic plates, which is where these often cataclysmic events are most wont to occur; indeed the two boundaries in closest proximity to us, where the Eurasian plate meets the African and the Caribbean plates ,respectively, are both around two thousand miles away?"

Well, that is because not all earthquakes happen at plate boundaries. Naturally, the big boys do, but they can also take place within tectonic plates. These 'intraplate earthquakes' are caused by local stresses, such as regional compression - when a plate being 'squeezed' between two others - or by uplift caused by geographical changes, such as the melting of ice sheets in recent history. They often occur along historic fault lines, often buried deep under the ground (such as in this case) which are more prone to conducting local strains and stresses. Nonetheless, they are not very well understood, and are very hard to predict.

But it could have been due to UKIP

UKIP councillor David Silvester claimed that gay people had caused the 2014 UK floods, so it stands to reason that we should be looking at recent events in Kent to determine the cause of this disaster. And, lo, what do we find but UKIP leader Nigel Farage standing for MP in Kent constituency South Thanet? Indeed, he actually promised 'an earthquake' in politics back in April 2014; perhaps he just got a bit too literal. Imagine the carnage we'd have seen if Nigel had won his seat.

Farage Quake

"So I grabbed Kent like this and just gave it a damned good shaking"

It's put Margate back on the map

It's good to see Margate mentioned in the national news again, particularly as it gives us a reason to post this classic. Anyone affected by the megaquake, put this on and cheer yourself up.

(Image: Shutterstock)



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