A major 4.4-magnitude earthquake shook buildings across western parts of Britain, with people from Cornwall to Blackpool reporting a strong tremor that damaged buildings, knocked objects off walls and caused lights to flicker.
Terrified Britons told of violent shaking, objects falling off shelves or walls, and furniture moving when the UK’s strongest quake in a decade struck just after 2.30pm near Swansea in South Wales.
Several buildings in Bristol were damaged, Swansea University was evacuated and people ran into the streets in fear, as the tremor was compared to everything from a “massive explosion” to a car crash.
The earthquake was felt by as many as 10 million Brits as far away as 200 miles from the epicentre in Cwmllynfell, and it was the strongest in South Wales in more than 100 years.
There was confusion and panic in the immediate aftermath, as many Britons weren’t sure what they were experiencing as their homes were rattled by the tremor.
Actor Michael Sheen’s father, Meyrick, who lives in Baglan, Wales said he had never experienced anything like it before.
He compared the tremor to a “massive explosion”.
He told WalesOnline: “We have lived here for 40 years and we have never experienced anything like this before, it felt like a massive explosion under ground.
“The walls shook, the lights flashed and the pictures were shaking. It was frightening.”
Tracey Pritchard, 35, who runs the The Dillwyn Arms Hotel in Pontardawe said the quake was so strong she thought the building had been hit by a lorry.
She said: “We thought a lorry had gone into the building and we actually went outside to look because we’re on a cross roads.
“But one of our customers went online and saw it was an earthquake.
“It’s just surprising – we’ve never had anything like this before.”
Donna Sinclair, 52, who lives in Mount Pleasant in Waterloo, said her entire house started shaking.
She told the Liverpool Echo: “I was in my house and it shook – the chair moved across the floor.”
She added: “It frightened the life out of me – I was that frightened I went onto the floor. I posted on Facebook immediately.
“I thought maybe I was crazy but as soon as it happened people said they felt it too.”
Alison Morgan, who works at Uplands Newsagents in Swansea, said: “My colleague noticed it first and wine bottles in the shop were shaking and a tile fell off the ceiling.
“I thought it was a lorry going past but it was an earth tremor.
“It was a significant feeling that went on for about two seconds – I was moving from left to right suddenly despite being stood on the same spot.
“The last one I experienced was in the 1980s when I lived in Pembrokeshire.”
Ann Lewis, 52, from Aberdare, told how people ran into the street afterwards.
She said: “I’m just a bit shook up, it was very strange. I was sat on the sofa watching Come Dine With Me and it just shook.”
She added: “My daughter was in bed unwell and I ran out the front, I thought perhaps someone had hit something in a car.
“All the neighbours shot out of their homes and were saying, ‘What the heck was that?’
“Apparently the guy up the road was in the bath and the whole bath shook.
“I’ve been here 16 years and and this a big solid house and I’ve never felt anything like this before.
“It’s my first earthquake and I’m hoping there are no more.”
Tyrone Williams, who lives in Port Talbot, added: “Our house shook and ornaments fell. Our birds flapped and squawked and our dog went nuts.”
Leigh O’Donovan, from Fairwater, Cardiff, told WalesOnline: “Me and my mother were watching TV. We both felt it.
“She looked at me and I looked at her, and we couldn’t believe what had happened.
“My boy went quite giddy. There was also a rumbling like thunder.
“I thought I was going off my rocker.”
Tracy Llewellyn, from Maesteg, said: “I didn’t know what it was. The whole house was shaking. My daughter’s toys were coming off the shelves and she was very frightened. The water geiser was going crazy.”
Avon Fire and Rescue Service received at least five calls about buildings being damaged in Bristol – and attended two to make sure they were safe.
Their spokesperson said: “We have had a half a dozen calls to report the earthquake. We have responded to one in the Bristol area to give advice after concerns about structural damage.
“We attended the home in the Knowle area and made checks and couldn’t find any damage.
“We would encourage anyone with similar concerns, particularly if they have issues with subsidence, to contact a structural engineer or their landlord.” Avon and Somerset police said no injuries have been reported.”
Mountain Ash Golf Course in Wales’ Cynon Valley posted a photo showing its championship shield, which was knocked over in its display case.
The course tweeted afterwards: “The whole building just rocked, The Championship shield moved but is safe.”
A Cardiff resident wrote: “House just shook in Cardiff. Friends from other parts of city and as far as Bristol felt the same. Mini earthquake? How weird.”
Another resident added: “A few minutes ago, there was a pop and then shaking in the house. The closet doors swung open! Lasted a few seconds. I think Cardiff just had an earthquake of some sort!”
A north Cornwall resident wrote: “That earthquake earlier was unreal! Here in north Cornwall it was strong enough to make the room vibrate like a washing machine on its spin cycle.”
The British Geological Survey said in a tweet that the magnitude was 4.4 and the epicentre was about 12 miles north-northeast of Swansea, at a depth of about 4.5 miles.
It added: “Events of this magnitude only happen in the UK every 2-3 years.”
It also tweeted: “This is the biggest event in the area since the 5.2 magnitude earthquake in 1906.”
Richard Luckett, a seismologist with the British Geological Survey, said: “This is the largest earthquake in mainland UK since the 5.2 magnitude Market Rasen earthquake in 2008.”
The magnitude was first estimated at 4.9, but was later revised to 4.2 by the US Geological Survey and 4.4 by the British Geological Survey.
The USGS said that the epicentre was about two miles from Clydach, which is within the city of Swansa.
In the aftermath, South Wales Police urged people not to phone the emergency services unless they had any damage or injuries to report.
The British Geological Survey’s website was overwhelmed by traffic following the event.
It wrote on Twitter: “We are in the process of analysing data for the felt report of a tremor in the SW of England. As soon as we know more we’ll let you know.”
It was the strongest earthquake to be felt in Britain in some time.
The largest known quake ever recorded was in the North Sea, near the Dogger Bank, in 1931.
The 6.1-magnitude earthquake was 60 miles offshore, but still caused minor damage to England’s east coast.
The most damaging earthquake was in the Colchester area in 1884. About 1,200 buildings needed repairs, chimneys collapsed and walls were cracked, the British Geological Survey said.
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