Mayo shaken awake by Wednesday morning quake

Westport town councillor calls for Tsunami emergency drill

Mayo was “All Shook Up” on Wednesday morning when an off-shore earthquake was felt across large parts of the west and north of the county. The quake which registered four on the Richter Scale, was the second-largest earthquake recorded in either Ireland or Britain after a 5.4 magnitude earthquake in 1984. Wednesday’s off-shore ‘quake was recorded 60km west of Belmullet at a depth of 3km, shortly before 9am. The tremors from the quake were felt well inland, with numerous members of the public reporting objects moving and shaking in homes and others describing the sensation of the earthquake as like a large truck passing very close by.

The quake was recorded by the seismic equipment in Ireland and in Britain, including the Cliffs of Moher seismometer.

Tom Blake, INSN Director and Experimental Officer with the School of Cosmic Physics at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS ), stated: “This is the first event recorded in this area and was felt onshore by quite a number of people. There are some reports of minor structural damage, which have not been confirmed.” According to Mr. Blake: “Although Ireland does not sit on any major plate margin, it is still susceptible to earthquakes as we saw in Mayo today and in Clare in 2010. This week’s earthquake was a very important seismic event as it was the first time that a tremor had occurred in this region since records began.” The DIAS began modern seismic recordings in 1978. The Irish National Seismic Network (INSN ) now features five permanent stations along with 55 other seismometers around the country.

Sinn Féin Cllr calls for investigation of cause of the quake

Belmullet area Sinn Féin Cllr Rose Conway Walsh has called for a comprehensive investigation into the causes of Wednesday’s quake. Cllr Conway stated: “I have received telephone calls from a significant number of people across the constituency regarding the earthquake. While it is too early to speculate as to the cause of the earthquake, people, particularly in the Erris area, are concerned that the force four earthquake is in some way linked to the works being carried out on the Corrib Gas project. People need to be assured that the seismic testing that is being done along the sea bed off the west coast is not in any way connected to the earthquake. Another concern people have is that the prospect of an earthquake has not been covered in the Environmental Impact Statement and what happens if the piping infrastructure or the terminal is damaged by an earthquake. They also want to know if any of the existing Corrib infrastructure has moved or been damaged by this morning’s earthquake. All these critical issues need to be addressed in a timely, transparent and accurate way by Minister Rabbitte, the developer and the various departments and bodies that have been tasked with responsibility for monitoring the project. This is the first real test of accountability around the safety of the Project and people will see it as an indication as to how future significant events will be dealt with.”

Councillor Keith Martin has called on Mayo County Council to run an emergency practice drill to prepare in case Mayo is ever subject to a Tsunami strike following a earthquake.

Cllr Martin made the request following the 4.0 earthquake which occurred on Wednesday. According to the councillor, there is a precedent for such a disaster as the Westport Historical Society’s Journal Cathair Na Mart records a large wave hitting Westport Quay in November 1909. The wave caused damage as it hit the Quay breaking the Quay wall and leaving large pieces of it strewn over the road to Rossbeg. The wave sent a wall of water four feet high up as far as the old railway station, which is now the Quay school.

Cllr Martin stated: “Experts now believe the wave was the result of the tectonic plates shifting far out in the Atlantic and this sent a mini-Tsunami wave racing ashore at Westport. The odds of a Tsunami hitting Westport or Mayo again must be millions to one but we should be prepared just as we would for an aeroplane or train crash or other such unlikely disasters.”

Cllr Martin concluded: “We only have to look as the disasters in the Pacific or the recent flooding in New Orleans to know how deadly water can be and we should not be complacent about such events. Towns like Westport and Newport are only feet above the sea level at their quays and we should be prepared.”

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