An earthquake with a magnitude of 3.0 recorded below north-east England was widely felt because it happened just as people were waking up, a British Geological Survey (BGS) seismologist has said.
Its epicentre was 2.5 miles (4km) below Stockton-on-Tees and was recorded at 5.57am on Thursday so was likely to have startled people in bed.
People reacted to the quake on social media, with one user saying it was “bad enough to wake us up” and another commented that it shook their house “as if a train went past my bedroom window”.
Another posted that it was a “strong earthquake (for England)”, saying that the “whole house shook and electricity flickered”.
“Wow that’s a first, felt an #earthquake in Stockton around 6am this morning”, one user said.
The United States Geological Survey estimated the magnitude of the quake at 2.8 but that was revised upwards by the BGS to 3.0 following local analysis.
One of those affected was 65-year-old James Speight, who told the PA news agency that both he and his fox-red labrador, Winston, felt tremors.
“It just felt like somebody was at the end of the bed, rattling away at it – it was only very small vibrations,” he said.
“It was just a ‘bang, bang’ type of noise. It obviously stirred Winston as he was barking at it, but my wife slept through it.”
Jonathan Nicholas, 72, said he was awoken by the early-morning shaking.
“I thought that the back door had fallen down at first, or that the windows had fallen in”, he told PA.
“It was only a minor thing, but it was unsettling to wake up to.”
Beverley Stark, 51, described hearing a “whoosh” sound just before 6am.
The carer told PA she initially thought it was either her boiler or her three cats – Stella, Smoky and Sky – chasing one another.
She said: “It was very odd. It most definitely woke me up and I didn’t know what it was – I woke up with a start and I sat up quite quickly, thinking ‘What on earth was that?’.
“It must have only been for seconds – it wasn’t long at all.”
BGS seismologist Glenn Ford said the shaking would have lasted for a few seconds, and could have been strong enough to knock over ornaments in people’s homes.
He said there were usually just three 3.0 magnitude earthquakes in the UK every year, compared with around 100,000 elsewhere in the world, with even more stronger ones recorded globally.
On the Richter scale, an earthquake with a magnitude of 3.0 is defined as being “minor”.
The scale says that a quake of that size would generally be felt by many people, but is not strong enough to cause any substantial damage.
Mr Ford said: “We are not terribly seismic in the UK, people are just not calibrated to them.
“People would not have looked up from their newspaper for this one if this happened in Greece.
“This one happened under a heavily populated area.
“There would not have been much traffic and so they can actually perceive the earthquake.
“People would have been lying in bed, so they would perceive it themselves.”
He added: “There would have been a rumbling noise, a little shudder, it would only have lasted for three or four seconds.”
Mr Ford said that, although the UK is not on any major fault lines, it is criss-crossed by smaller ones which still experience stresses from time to time.