Largest UK earthquake for a decade hits Wales and west of England

Mike Wright
British Geological Survey real-time seismogram - British Geological Survey

The largest earthquake to hit the UK for a decade has struck in Wales and been felt as far away as Birmingham, the British Geological Survey (BGS) has confirmed.

People reported feeling buildings shake and a university was evacuated as the 4.4 magnitude tremor happened around 2pm. 

The quake's epicentre was registered around 12 miles north east of Swansea and its hypocentre, the point where the shift actually happened, was five miles under the surface of the earth.

The BGS said earthquakes of this magnitude occur in the UK around once every two to three years.

A spokesman for the BGS said: “It was a reasonably sized earthquake. This earthquake has been felt across a large area of Wales and England with the furthest reports so far from Birmingham and Devon. 

Wales Earthquake

“This is the largest earthquake in mainland UK since the Market Rasen earthquake  in 2008.”

There have been no reports yet of serious damage or injuries with many people taking to social media to ask if others had felt the minor quake.

Tom Haden felt the quake while cooking at his home in Redcliffe, in the centre of Bristol, and initially thought it was building works.

The 27-year-old software engineer told the Telegraph: “I was cooking in the apartment here and just felt the floor shake, few things shaking and swaying in here; [it] lasted all of about 10 seconds.

“I wasn't sure what it was at first as it's not usual for the UK, and we have demolition work down the road so I thought it could be that.

“It's only when I tweeted that others then mentioned the same thing that it became apparent it was a quake.”

Ashleigh Lewis, an 18-year-old university student living in Bath, also felt the tremor. She said: “I was just in my flat, the bed started shaking. I thought it was my neighbour downstairs, but when I looked the entire room was shaking, it was so strange.”

In the wake of the tremor Swansea University was evacuated as a precaution, however police in the Welsh city urged people not to call the emergency services unless they had injuries or damage to report.

The quake also temporarily halted first half play in Port Talbot FC's Welsh Football League Division One match against Taff's Well A.F.C.

Meanwhile for many other people the incident was a point of mirth or an excuse to reacquaint themselves with their neighbours, while some missed it altogether.

Saturday's earthquake was the largest to hit the UK since the 5.2 magnitude one, which struck near the Lincolnshire town of Market Rasen in February 2008.

That quake was felt across the UK, and as far away as Ireland. It resulted in some buildings being damaged and a 19-year-old man suffering a broken pelvis when a chimney collapsed in south Yorkshire.

The largest known British earthquake occurred in 1931 near the Dogger Bank, a large sandbank the North Sea off the east coast of England, at a magnitude of 6.1.

UK Biggest Shocks

Despite being 60 miles from the shore it was powerful enough to cause minor damage to buildings near the coast.

The most serious earthquake to happen in the UK hit the Colchester area in 1884 and damaged more than 1,000 buildings, collapsing chimneys and cracking walls open.