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.


  1. Posted September 17, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Great post. Makes me wonder what kind of mind is required to write for the Daily Fail. The same story is covered in slightly less sensationalist terms in today’s Indy.

  2. Posted September 17, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I think they’ve been disappointed that the NZ earthquake didn’t cause more carnage, bless them.

  3. user@example.com
    Posted September 17, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I know this one. There’ve got to be a billion people in Egland, what with all the immigrants, and the government makes sure they all have a home at the taxpayer’s expense. That’s a billion homes with chimneys falling off all at once! As for scores, the elfansafety people get a point for each taxpayer crushed under their welfare chimneys.

    Sickening, really.

  4. HornsDino
    Posted September 17, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Well, it’s lucky the police are getting all this training then!


    Will be delicious if the Express cover this in the same way, given their track record of copy-pasting Mail articles.

  5. Richard
    Posted September 17, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t the Mail or Express run a sneering article on the Emergency services doing disaster training a week ago complaining about it being a waste of money?

  6. Posted September 17, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    I saw this story last night and it immediately stood out as too simplistic. So I contacted Dr Musson and asked for his comments. He has not read the article but did provide clarification to my own comments put to him. I will follow this up on Sunday with a post of my own. I like the title, bugger, will have to think of something just as good!

  7. Posted September 17, 2010 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    From the Mail on 10 September:

    Fury at £1m cost of three-day earthquake training… when UK has had only 11 deaths in 1,000 years


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