LONDON, Sept. 16 (UPI) — The earthquake threat to London has been underestimated and the vulnerability of the British capital is greater than many people realize, scientists say.
Researchers with the British Geological Survey say the southeast of England is not likely to be hit by the kind of devastating quakes experienced in other parts of the world but planners should prepare for events that will produce damaging shaking, the BBC reported Thursday.
The biggest U.K. quake on record occurred in the North Sea off the Yorkshire coast in 1931, the BBC said.
The magnitude 6.1 event shook the eastern side of England all the way to London, scientists say.
In April 1580 a quake centered on the Dover Strait, where clay soils tend to amplify any shaking, killed two people and damaged large numbers of buildings in London.
Sometime in the future a similar earthquake is almost certain to happen, researchers say, with an increased risk to society.
“The same earthquake happening tomorrow will impact far more people than was the case in the 16th Century,” Roger Musson of the BGS said. “The size of London in terms of population is about 50 times more today than it was then. So if two people were killed in London in 1580, you can imagine for yourself what sort of scaling up that could mean for a contemporary earthquake of the same size.”
While London’s modern skyscrapers should easily handle a magnitude 5.5 quake, it’s the city’s older historical buildings that worry scientists.
“If you go round the streets of London today and just look up at the roof line, you will probably see a lot of weak, old ornaments and chimneys,” Musson said. “Those are the things that are most likely to be damaged.
“It may not sound very dramatic compared to buildings collapsing, but if you are walking in the street and a chimney falls on you — that’s bad news,” he said.
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