Police get ‘plane crash’ call after magnitude 3 earthquake in Surrey

It is the fourth tremor to hit the area in the last two weeks.

Press Association
Last updated: 27 February 2019 - 11.30am

A 3.0 magnitude earthquake in Surrey caused somebody to think a plane had crashed, police have said.

The tremor was felt in Newdigate, Surrey, less than 10 miles from Gatwick Airport, at 3.42am, according to the British Geological Survey (BGS). The effects were also felt in parts of Sussex.

Surrey Police received a number of calls from concerned residents, including one person reporting that a plane had crashed, and another thinking their house had been broken into.

A further call asked if there had been an earthquake, and a fourth reported a loud bang.

Wednesday morning’s tremor was the fourth recorded quake in the area in the last fortnight, with the ground having moved on February 19, and twice on Valentine’s Day.

The latest movement was the strongest, however, after the BGS recorded a 2.0 magnitude tremor on February 19, and 2.4 and 0.2 quakes on February 14.

Stephen Hicks, seismologist at Imperial College London, said: “All these earthquakes are occurring in exactly the same location at a shallow depth of 2km beneath the surface.”

Residents in the area were woken by Wednesday morning’s incident.

James King, councillor for South Park and Woodhatch, tweeted at 3.43am: “Was that an earthquake in Reigate just now?”

Some joked about the impact of the quake by sharing images of household items fallen on their side.

Twitter user @jonneh shared an image of a fallen broom, adding: “Assessing the damage from last night’s earthquake.”

A handful of social media users expressed concern that the series of quakes were the result of nearby oil and gas exploration.

However, Mr Hicks said while scientists were “keeping an open mind”, there was “still no available evidence which points towards the triggering by man-made activities”.

“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,” he said.

Gatwick Airport in West Sussex confirmed they had felt the tremors overnight but operations had not been affected.

A spokesman said: “The team overnight felt the effect in the airport (and) … the terminals.”

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