€50m bill as 5.4 French quake leaves hundreds homeless

France's largest earthquake in 15 years – with a magnitude of  5.4 – wrecked many buildings in an Ardèche town and left four people injured and hundreds homeless.

27 November 2019
By Connexion journalist

The Cruas nuclear power station 10km away was halted for a time for checks after a tremor alarm went off but the larger Tricastin power station, 25km south east and on a faultline, had no problems.

Olivier Pévérelli, mayor of 8,000-resident Le Teil, said rebuilding of homes, the damaged school and other buildings could cost €50million.

Half the homes – 895 in all –were damaged, leaving many uninhabitable, with four schools, two churches and the town hall also affected. 

Mr Pévérelli has launched an appeal for help from other mayors out of solidarity.

Hundreds of residents have had to be housed in hotels, B&Bs, campsites and with friends and family.

The 900 students at the lycée have been split between six other schools in the region, while some junior classes are being held in the salle des fêtes.

Geologists said the quake, on November 11, was unusual as it was a low seismicity zone, just 1-2km below ground rather than the more normal 5-20km, and there were few aftershocks.

The BRGM geological survey said there was a “vertical rupture of around 12cm” that was visible from space using radar.

Claims that quarrying caused the quake are being investigated but geologists said it was far from proven. Grenoble seismologist Jean-Robert Grasso said the unusual tremor pointed to a superficial cause in the Earth’s crust, possibly quarrying.

A quarry near Le Teil has been worked since 1833.

The tremor was felt from Lyon to Nîmes and left one person badly hurt in Montélimar and three less seriously in Ardèche.

Left of the black ribbon of the Rhône, the Sentinel 1 satellite radar image catches the Le Teil quake in colour. Each colour band has 2cm height difference from neighbour
Sentinel satellite image shows the "vertical rupture". Red sector rose by up to 7cm, blue fell about

It was not in the usual seismic zones of the Alps, Pyrenees and Massif Central, where much smaller quakes are common.

By the end of November, nearly 1,600 tremors had been recorded in France this year, mostly in the south east, averaging five a day.

Historic earth tremors in France, residents in yellow circle zone would feel some shaking, while those in purple (like Le Teil) would see some damage
France's earthquake zones - showing the Alps and Pyrenees at most risk
Since 1900 France has had thousands of quakes, mostly minor but some rated at 5 or more on the Richter scale (the darker the colour the higher the rating)

For more, please see: planseisme.fr

Get news, views and information from France
You have 2 free subscriber articles left
Subscribe now to read unlimited articles and exclusive content