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Rare earthquake damages French homes, schools and churches


Jun 17, 2023


PARIS — Around 170 people were relocated from the western French town of La Laigne after an earthquake on Friday evening.

The quake, believed to have been between magnitude 5.2 and 5.8, was felt from Rennes in the north-west to Bordeaux in the southwest.

Homes, schools and churches were damaged, with hundreds of buildings declared uninhabitable.

Earthquakes above magnitude five are unusual in France, with the last affecting the country in November 2019.

Two people were injured in the town of Deux-Sevres following Friday’s tremor. The Charente-Maritime region just north of Bordeaux was particularly affected.

In La Laigne, the local fire service chief Didier Marcaillou warned the church had become “completely unusable” and a top government regional official said that most of the houses in the town center were affected.

“The school will have to be closed as a precaution,” Nicolas Basselier said.

One woman cried as she told local station BFMTV that she had could no longer live in her home.

“I wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” said the woman, named Christine. “In my son’s room you can fit your entire hand through the crack in the wall.”

Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne described the earthquake as “unusual” and expressed her solidarity with those “who may have been worried”.

“We will obviously ensure that everyone has access to housing,” Borne said.

“We will obviously ensure that everyone has access to rehousing,” she added.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the government would initiate an accelerated natural disaster recognition procedure to help quickly assess the structural damage to buildings.

The quake was also felt in other areas, including the nearby department of Deux-Sevres where two people were lightly wounded, the emergency services said.

The national network for seismic surveillance RENASS recorded the quake at 5.3, while the French Central Seismological Bureau (BCSF) put it at 5.8.

Seismologists said the quake was the most significant in the region since 1972.

Earthquakes at or above five magnitude are unusual in France, with the last such event taking place in November 2019 in the remote southern Drôme and Ardeche departments. – BBC with inputs from agencies



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