Magnitude 5.2 Earthquake Hits Southwestern France

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A magnitude 5.2 earthquake rattled the southwestern French city of La Rochelle on Thursday morning.

The Central French Seismic Office said it was  strongest quake in mainland France since April 2014.

The quake hit at 08:46 local time and caused buildings to shake, but there have been no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

France24 reports:The epicentre was between La Rochelle and the popular tourist town of Rochefort in the Charente-Maritime region.

A number of schools and other buildings in La Rochelle have been evacuated, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or significant damage, according to a statement released by local authorities.

“I was sleeping when I felt a powerful shaking. At first, I thought that it was just building work, but then I realised it was an earthquake. It didn’t last long, but it was strong enough to be frightening,” Julie, a 20-year-old resident of La Rochelle, told the regional daily Sud Ouest.

La Rochelle resident Olivier said that he “thought that a bomb or a gas canister had exploded, the walls were shaking so much I was afraid [my apartment] might collapse”.

Another woman in the nearby town of Angoulins told Sud Ouest that part of her ceiling collapsed during the quake.

An estimated population of 3.4 million people live in the affected area, according to the Paris-based real-time earthquake warning organisation EMSC.

Though smaller tremors are frequent in mainland France, strong earthquakes are rare.

The last time a deadly earthquake struck France was in 1909, when the town of Lambesc near Marseille was struck by a magnitude-6 tremor, killing 46 people and injured a further 250.

However,  after the April 2014 quake on the French Rivera, seismologist Remy Bossu said the south of France was at risk of serious damage from earthquakes in the future, due to antiquated designs of many buildings that would not be able to withstand a powerful quake.