Four people were injured, one of them seriously, in the worst earthquake in France in 16 years, which occurred Monday at midday near Montélimar, in the south-east.
The magnitude 5.4 earthquake on the Richter scale occurred at “26 km southeast of Privas”, possibly near the town of Teil, at 11:52, said in a statement the Central Bureau seismologique French (BCSF).
This is the strongest earthquake in continental France since 2003, according to BCSF data. In 2011, a magnitude 5.5 earthquake had been recorded, but its epicenter was at sea, 100 km off the island of Corsica.
The shock was mainly felt in the departments of Drome and Ardeche, especially in the vicinity of Montelimar where a person was seriously injured in the fall of a scaffolding, according to the prefecture of the Drôme.
Three other people were slightly injured in Ardeche following a “panic attack,” said the prefect of the department on Twitter who asked residents of Teil, a particularly affected locality, to “stay for the moment outside the dwellings “.
“My building has been broken inside, outside, it is cracked everywhere,” told AFP Brahim, a resident.
According to the mayor Olivier Pévérelli, who claims to have had “the fear of (his) life”, two bell towers “are ready to fall” and the top floor of the town hall is inaccessible because the ceilings have fallen “.
Three gymnasiums were opened to accommodate people forced to leave their homes.
“It lasted five seconds, everything shook around me, the furniture, the walls, as if a plane had crashed to 800 meters or a big explosion”, testified to the AFP Kevin Cuer, who lives in 4th floor of a Montélimar building.
“Everyone came out in the street after the tremor, people were very scared, we said to ourselves” as long as it stops quickly “, he added.
According to the anti-nuclear group of Vaucluse, the epicenter is located “less than 20 km from the Cruas power station where the shock was felt in the engine room of the reactors and 30 km from the atomic site of Tricastin (Drôme / Vaucluse) “.
This group stresses that the site of Tricastin “implanted on an active seismic fault and below the channel of Donzère-Mondragon” is “the most threatening nuclear site of Europe spreading on more than 615 hectares”, asking “the setting the unconditional shutdown of nuclear installations “.
The Nuclear Safety Agency (ASN) assured that the earthquake had caused “no apparent damage” to these sites, but that EDF (Électricité de France) still had to calculate the exact impact of the earthquake.
The civil security stated that no impact was noted in these plants, any more than on the Seveso sites (the Seveso ranking indicates in France the dangerousness of a site and implies that it enjoys special surveillance ).
The reactors of the Cruas nuclear power plant will however be stopped “in the coming hours” for a “thorough audit”, said the prefect of Drôme.
On the other hand, the Tricastin site will continue to function, underlined the ASN.
“The dog has barked”
“It’s a rare earthquake … an important earthquake for the region,” Mustapha Meghraoui, a physicist at the Strasbourg Institute of Earth Physics, told AFP. He warned of the possibility of a strong reply.
“One does not exclude that there is a shock perhaps as strong as that of this morning, it is rare, but one does not exclude it, it is necessary that one is cautious and vigilant”, a- he warned.
The jolt, of rare intensity in the region, was felt until Saint-Etienne, Grenoble, Lyon, distant some 150 kilometers from the epicenter of the earthquake, and even in the south of France.
“I was lying in front of my computer on my bed when I felt a big noise behind the partition of the apartment, the furniture moved,” told AFP Bertrand Maigre, living on the 5th floor of a building of the 6th arrondissement of Lyon.
“The dog barked before the tremor”, also told AFP Didier Lévy, who lives in a fifteenth century castle in Lamotte-du-Rhône. “This is the first time I’ve seen this, I felt the shock when our walls are one meter thick,” he added. Several minutes after the tremor, “the chandeliers were still moving,” he assured.