The earth moved in south-eastern France at around 9.30pm on Monday night when an earthquake measuring 5.19 on the Richter scale shook the region for around 15 seconds.
The epicentre of the earthquake was said to be in the Alps-des-Hautes-Provence at a point around 7km from the town of Châteauroux, 8km from d’Embrun and 10km from the village Barcelonnette, according to France’s National Earthquake Surveillance Network (Renass).
According to Le Parisien, the quake was felt the strongest in Barcolonnette, which was left with minor damage, but also in towns and cities from Nice to Marseille as well as Gap, Briançon and Grenoble.
“We had around 50 calls from the public,” said Colonel Thierry Carret from the fire and rescue service in Alps-de-Haute-Provence. “We are currently carrying out checks. They are no reports of injuries, but there are reports of cracks in walls, broken chimneys and falling tiles.”
Scientist François Thouvenot from an earthquake surveillance network in Grenoble told Le Parisien that a quake on this scale in the south east of France normally occurs "only once every 30 years".
Although there were no reports of an injuries or serious damage, many in the region were left in shock at the unexpected tremor.
“The ground trembled beneath our feet,” said Patrick Vayé, from the town of Cannes-La Bocca. “I was afraid of an aftershock so we quickly left the house in case the roof collapsed.”
Another witness from Nice told Europe1 radio: “I had a hollow feeling in the stomach, which lasted quite a long time. I felt jerky and tiny when faced with such a phenomenon."
According to experts from Renass, inhabitants of south-eastern France should not have been shocked by the quake.
“It’s not a surprise. It’s a zone known by all the seismology labs in the region,” Renass said.
Seismic activity in the area is common due to the coming together of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates that gave rise to the creation of the Alps. “Today the plates move constantly,” said Renass.
This map from the European-Mediterranean Seismology Centre, based in Paris shows the latest quakes around the world in the last 24 hours, including the 5.2 magnitude tremor in Provence.
This is not the first time parts of France havebeen unexpectedly hit by an earthquake. In November last year The Local reported how Brittany was hit by a 4.5-magnitude earthquake that some locals said felt like "an explosion".
In December last year a report was published which stated that France is dangerously unprepared for the natural disasters, including earthquakes, that most of the country is exposed to. (For more on this click on the link below)
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