Bargoed Trembles as It Is Marked as the Epicentre of a Series of Quakes; SEISMOLOGY: Experts Discount Mine Workings

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 14, 2002 | Go to article overview

Bargoed Trembles as It Is Marked as the Epicentre of a Series of Quakes; SEISMOLOGY: Experts Discount Mine Workings


Byline: CATRIN WILLIAMS

NO-ONE can forecast when the next earthquake will hit Wales or how devastating it will be.

That's the view of an earthquake expert after Bargoed was hit by its seventh in recent months.

The latest quake, which registered three on the Richter Scale, happened at 7.13pm on Tuesday.

Its epicentre was a mile north-west of the town and it sent out shock waves that were felt over a six-mile radius including Abercynon, Nelson, Treharris and New Tredegar.

It also raised fears that an underground coalface may have collapsed after being saturated with rain.

However, Glenn Ford, a seismologist for the British Geological Survey, said the shake penetrating 8km towards the centre of the earth was too deep to be explained by mining.

When the industry was at full strength, up to a quarter of such tremors could be attributed to it, said the scientist. A telltale sign are shock waves near the surface but now that the majority of mines have shut these are very rare.

He believes that the Bargoed quakes have been triggered by one of the many fault lines that criss-cross the UK letting off pressure.

"Some are very short and some are 300km in depth. It's often difficult to know where they are; they are often deep underground, " said Mr Ford.

"I cannot tell you when they will happen again. It is not unusual for South Wales. There's a lot of history of seismic activity."

Dr Tony Harries, senior lecturer in geology at the University of Glamorgan, said there was once a colliery very near the epicentre but its tunnels and shafts would not reach 8km deep.

"It is very hard to say for sure that there is not a link, because the mine workings can help liberate fault lines and get them moving.

"But it seems unlikely that this is what caused the quake."

Mr Ford said there were 200 earthquakes in Britain each year and only 10pc of those were felt. One of the UK's largest recorded tremors was at Swansea in 1906 which, at 5.2 on the Richter Scale, was 1,000 times bigger than the one to hit Bargoed.

The biggest quake in Britain registered 6.1 and hit 100km offshore from Great Yarmouth in 1931.

On October 10 last year, a quake which registered 3.1 on the Richter Scale shook houses and rattled windows in the Bargoed area. It was followed by another, 2.5 in strength, eight days later.

On January 28, 2002, another also measured at 2.5 on the scale struck some 6.3km into the earth following a tremor rated 1. …

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