‘It was like an explosion’: Western France shaken by 4.8 magnitude earthquake

Residents in western France were given a fairly rude awakening at 4am on Monday morning when they were shaken from their sleep by an earthquake measuring 4.8 magnitude.

'It was like an explosion': Western France shaken by 4.8 magnitude earthquake

The epicentre of the tremor, which didn't cause any injuries or fatalities, was reported to have been close to the town of Saint-Hilaire-de-Voust in the Vendée department of western France, which stands close to the department of Deux-Sèvres.

Residents in the area were left trembling and reports suggest the tremors were felt as far away as the city of Poitiers, 100 kilometres from the epicentre.

A baker in the town of Busseau told RMC radio: “I was in my bakery and then it was like a big explosion, a terrible shock, we thought a truck had crashed into a wall.”

A baker in the town of Châtaigneraie added: “I was scared. I thought it was an explosion. There was a 'boom' for a few seconds, maybe five seconds. It's happened before but it's never been that powerful.”

The mayor of the town of 2,700 residents Nicolas Maupetit told France Info radio: “I thought there had been an accident perhaps a lorry which had crashed into a house nearby. I felt the house shake. I grabbed my telephone in case people started calling. I have to say my heart was racing.”

While it might have scared residents the earthquake did not provoke any real structural damage.


Western France is regularly hit by earthquakes, particularly Brittany but most are not powerful enough t be detected.

Seismologist Eric Beucler, who is based in western France told France Info: “We have a earthquake every four days but no one feels it.The biggest took place in Oléron in September 1972, it was 4.9 to 5. 

“We have a big one every two years. This was so powerful that we couldn't miss it.”

Rémy Bossu, the head of the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre  (EMSC), says it's all because of the African plate. 

“In short, Brittany is one of the seismically active regions in metropolitan France,” Bossu told The Local. 

“All the seismicity in metropolitan France is linked to the push northward of the African plate. This push reactivates old faults in Brittany and in other parts of France (the Alps, the Pyrénees, the Massif Central, and the Rhenan rift).”

He pointed out that over the last 50 years Brittany has been particularly hit by quakes compared to the rest of France (see map below). 

Bossu says that while there has been no history of very large quakes in Brittany, that doesn't mean it couldn't happen. 

“One cannot exclude the possibility of a huge earthquake in Brittany, but the thing is that nobody knows when it would strike – you just can't predict when they strike,” he said. 

READ ALSO: Should people in Brittany be worried about all the earthquakes?


French Alps shaken by 140 earthquakes in just over a month

Residents in one part of the French Alps are starting to grow a little concerned after the area was hit by 140 earthquakes in the last 40 days.

Those living in the Maurienne part of Savoie in the French Alps have been getting used to being shaken awake at night in recent weeks.
Earthquake observation organisation Sismalp have registered 140 minor tremors in the region in the last 40 days. The strongest tremor registered 3.8 on the Richter scale.
While none of the earthquakes have caused any structural damage, they are starting to fray the nerves of locals, who have been briefed about how to act in the case of a powerful tremor.
“The noise is like a storm coming from far way. Everything shakes. I said 'that's it, all the tiles are going to break,” Martine a resident of the village of Montgellafray told Europe1 radio.
“The last earthquake was really frightening. Since the end of August it has never stopped. Every two days there is one and they are getting more common.”
Another resident of the village, named Yves said: “Everyone is asking questions. Everyone in the village is talking about it.”
Seismologists say they are unable to explain the increase in the number of earthquakes in the region, but have placed five new sensors in the valley to “monitor and better understand the phenomenon”.
After a series of quakes along the French Riviera in  2014 a specialist seismologist told The Local that south east France would be hit by a big earthquake at some point in time.
“We don't know when a big one will come, but it will and there will be fatalities,” he said.

'One day a deadly earthquake will hit France'