Quaking With Terror

A terrifying article in the Daily Mail today warns us that we are as usual just seconds away from a gory death: ‘Quake Britain: We’re overdue a massive tremor that could kill scores of people at any moment, warn experts’.

As usual the Daily Mail is taking advantage of the PCC ruling that headlines are classed as opinion and therefore do not have to be accurate; although to be fair the opening paragraph is pretty sensationalist as well:

Britain is overdue a killer earthquake that could see up to 100 people crushed to death… it would also cause billions of pounds’ worth of damage to buildings and infrastructure.

According to the Mail, Dr Roger Musson (the expert concerned) suggests that a fracture beneath the English Channel ‘could fail at any time’. The last quake caused by this fault was in 1580, measured 6 on the Richter scale and killed two children. The Mail suggests that according to Dr Musson the effect of a similar quake today would be ’50 times more serious’ and leads the Mail to multiply the two deaths by 50 to get the ‘100 dead’ figure they use in the introduction.

However, this fine prediction and logic is undermined somewhat by an accompanying table which states that the largest earthquake Britain has suffered occurred in 1931, measured 6.1 on the Richter and killed just 1 person. Furthermore, towards the end of the article the Mail describes the effect of a 5.5-6 earthquake:

[it] is unlikely to demolish buildings, but will topple old chimneys on older homes.

Quite where the ‘scores’ of dead and ‘billions of pounds’ worth of damage to buildings and infrastructure’ will come from is not explained.