Fault line under Channel produces the quakes
IN JANUARY 2005, after the Boxing Day tsunami in Asia, we reported that experts were warning that Dover and the South East could be affected by an earthquake similar to one that occurred in 1580.
In fact, Saturday’s earthquake was the fifth quake produced by a fault line located in the Dover Straits.
The first reported quake, measuring 5.8 on the Richter Scale, was in February 1382.
In 1580, the quake measured between 5.3 and 5.9 and had an epicentre beneath the Channel.
Calais and Boulogne were flooded, many people drowned and dozens of boats were sunk by huge waves.
Sections of wall fell in Dover, including the loss of a piece of the cliff and castle wall.
At Sandwich, a gable end fell from the north wing of St Peter’s Church, four arches cracked in St Mary’s Church and part of a chimney fell down.
A great sea swell arose in the Channel sinking 25 to 30 British, French and Flemish vessels.
About 12 hours later, it was reported that 30 houses fell down near Dover and a second deluge was reported to have drowned 120 people. Two people were killed in London.
Geologists warned that they could not rule out another 1580type earthquake in the future, but they said it was impossible to estimate how soon it might occur.
There were subsequent quakes in this area in 1776 and 1950, which measured about 4 on the Richter Scale – similar to Saturday’s earthquake. Some people remember a tremor which hit Dover in 1938.
Roger Musson, a seismologist with the British Geological Survey, said: “We know there is a fault line under the Channel and that it produces quakes measuring around 4 or 6.
“My fear is that if a 1580 style earthquake happened again, the damage would be much worse because of the huge growth in the population.”