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Birmingham earthquake: Walsall hit by 2.8 magnitude earthquake - what happened in the West Midlands?

Tremors from the earthquake were felt by residents in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Dudley

<p>The earthquake took place in Walsall, near Birmingham (Photo: DARREN STAPLES/AFP via Getty Images)</p>

The earthquake took place in Walsall, near Birmingham (Photo: DARREN STAPLES/AFP via Getty Images)

Last night (Monday 21 February), an earthquake struck the West Midlands in the town of Walsall, near Birmingham.

The earthquake comes after the UK is still recovering from the effects of Storm Dudley, Storm Eunice and Storm Franklin all hitting the country over the course of a week.

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This is what you need to know.

What happened?

A 2.8 magnitude earthquake struck the West Midlands late on Monday night, the British Geological Survey (BGS) said.

According to the BGS, the quake hit the town of Walsall, near Birmingham, at a depth of seven kilometres (4.35 miles) at 10.59pm.

The service said the effects of the quake were felt in a 20km radius from its epicentre, with tremors being detected by residents in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Dudley.

Tremors were felt by residents in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Dudley (Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Affected residents told the BGS the quake shook their homes, while one person said it “was like a wardrobe had fallen over or an explosion blast against the window”.

The BGS said the quake was approximately 13km (eight miles) east of the magnitude 4.7 Dudley earthquake, which was felt over most of England when it struck on September 22, 2002.

How often does the UK have earthquakes?

According to BGS data, each year there are between 200 and 300 earthquakes detected in the UK, however only 20 to 30 are actually felt by people. A few hundred smaller earthquakes also occur each year, but are only recorded by sensitive instruments.

While most of these earthquakes are small and cause little to no damage, some UK earthquakes have caused considerable damage - however, the BGS says that even the damage caused is “nothing like the devastation caused by large earthquakes in other parts of the world”.

Research suggests that the largest possible earthquake we could have in the UK would be around a magnitude of 6.5.

According to the BGS, most earthquakes in the UK occur on the western side of the British mainland, and are almost entirely absent from eastern Scotland, north-east England and Northern Ireland.

What’s the biggest earthquake that the UK has had?

The largest known British earthquake happened back in 1931, near the Dogger Bank with a magnitude of 6.1.

The earthquake happened 60 miles offshore, but it was still powerful enough to cause some damage to buildings on the east coast of England at the time.

While that was the largest earthquake the UK has had, the earthquake that caused the most damage in Britain was one that took place in the Colchester area in 1884, which caused around 1200 buildings to need repairs.

What was the biggest earthquake in the world?

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the biggest earthquake ever recorded happened in 1960, and is known as the Valdivia earthquake or Great Chilean earthquake, and occurred in Bio-Bio, Chile.

It had a magnitude of 9.5 and lasted approximately 10 minutes when it happened at around 3:11pm local time.

Tsunamis were caused by the tremor which severely affected the Chilean coast, causing waves of up to 25 metres (or 82 ft).

It’s unclear how many died as a result of the earthquake, with various estimates ranging from 1,000 to 6,000.

What causes earthquakes?

Earthquakes are caused by sudden movements along the faults found within the earth.

The BGS says that this movement “releases stored-up ‘elastic strain’ energy in the form of seismic waves, which propagate through the earth and cause the ground surface to shake”.

The earth’s tectonic plates are always slowly moving around, but their edges can get stuck due to friction - when the stress built up on the edge overcomes the friction, an earthquake occurs.

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