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What you need to know about the earthquakes in Charente (and will there be more?)

People in the Charente area of western France felt the earth move once again on Saturday in the area's second earthquake in just a few weeks. But why does this keep happening - and are there likely to be more on the way?

What you need to know about the earthquakes in Charente (and will there be more?)
The quake epicentre. Map: European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC)
The department of Charente-Maritime in western France experienced its second earthquake in less than three weeks on Saturday. 
 
The earthquake registered at a fairly low 3.6 on the Richter scale and hit on Saturday morning, with the epicentre located in the town of Jonzac. 
 
The previous earthquake, measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale, hit the area on March 20th about 20 km to the south of Jonzac in Montendre and could be felt all the way from Bordeaux to the city of Poitiers in western France. 
 
But how much should those who live in Charente-Maritime be concerned by these two earthquakes?
 
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Expert Gilles Mazet-Roux from France's Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) told The Local that two earthquakes occurring so close to one another should not come as too much of a surprise.
 
“The second earthquake is what we call a replica of the one on March 20th,” he said, adding that the first one was 30 times larger. 
 
“It's a classic situation that we see in the days following an earthquake. More earthquakes occur after the initial hit and then these become less and less frequent,” he said. 
 
“I believe there were two more on March 20th and another on March 29th.”
 
So, why does this happen?
 
“The first shock would have altered the subterranean balance, led to turbulence, and there can still be 'mood swings' in the area,” Christophe Sira from France's Central Bureau of Seismology (BCSF) told the French press. 
 
On Saturday, the earth slipped and moved a centimetre, Sira said, adding that this wave of movement spread about 50 kilometres while the earthquake of March 20th moved the earth around four centimetres.
 
And should people in Charente-Maritime be worried?
 
While it is “relatively rare” to see earthquakes in the Charente-Maritime department, which is located in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, it wasn't a “total surprise”, said Mazet-Roux from the EMSC. 
 
“There have been others and there will be again but it is not that common,” he added. 
 
Meanwhile Sira from the BCSF described the area as “one of the most stable zones of France”. 
 
However he added that this doesn't mean the area won't experience another, perhaps more intense, earthquake in the future. 
 
Map: European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre  (EMSC)
 
However he said that even this shouldn't be too much cause for concern, explaining that France will never experience a “big one” of the likes expected to occur in California in the coming years or indeed like the one which occurred in Sumatra in Indonesia in 2004, killing 250,000 people.
 
“This is for the simple reason that we have no 'fault' of this size,” he said, referring to the thin zone of crushed rock in the earth's crust which, when one slips against another, leads to earthquakes.
 
Metropolitan France, which is located in the middle of the European tectonic plate – away from big 'faults' – is not affected by more serious intercontinental shocks.
 
The bad news is that even if an earthquake can be deadly even if they do not reach a high number on the Richter scale. 
 
For example, in 1909, one estimated at 6.2 in Lambesc in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône in southern France destroyed five villages and killed about 50 people.
 
Since the beginning of 2019, 25 earthquakes have been recorded by the French central seismological office (BCSF) however among these only ten to 15 have been felt by the population. 
 
And on average there are 2,500 earthquakes per year in metropolitan France. 
 
The infographic from Le Parisien below shows where some of the most significant earthquakes in France have taken place in recent years. 
 

In France, the most sensitive areas are found around the Pyrenees and in the countryside around the German border and in the Alps. 

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/cartesfrance.fr
But while the map – created by cartesfrance.fr – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.
 

 
 
 
Here are some of the key points.
 
1. Everyone hates Parisians
 
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
 
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
 
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
 
 
2. Staycations rule
 
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
 
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
 
 
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
 
3. Northerners like a drink
 
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
 
 
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
 
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
 
 
4. Poverty
 
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
 
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
 
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
 
5. Southern prejudice
 
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
 
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
 
 
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
 
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
 
For more maps that reflect France, head to cartesfrance.fr
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