Homes were evacuated, power lines were cut and emergency services were inundated with calls yesterday after parts of Kent were shaken by an unusual British occurrence – an earthquake.
The tremor, which measured 4.3 on the Richter scale, struck just after 8.15am.
Such was the description of events 24 hours on. "I felt the house lift up," said one resident of Folkestone, the worst hit area. "I could hear bricks coming down into the front yard. There are cracks everywhere."
Roads in the town were cordoned off by police amid fears that chimney pots and masonry could fall while residents were gathered outside to check the damage and because of fears of possible aftershocks. The police confirmed that there were no reports of serious injuries.
Another Folkestone resident said her dog had started barking just before the quake struck: "I've never seen him so scared. He was cowering. Then there was a great crash as the chimney came down."
The Kent quake is not the largest to affect Britain in recent times. The 1931 Dogger Bank earthquake – felt across much of the UK, as well as in France and Belgium – measured 6.1.
In addition to the damage to Kent, a kilometre-long crack has been discovered in a seaside cliff-top in the New Forest. A row of expensive beach huts below the cliff face in Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire, was evacuated as it was feared there might be a landslide.
As Muslims, in addition to showing compassion for the victims, the earthquake should remind us, like other natural phenomena, of the Day of Judgment. That is the Day on which the whole of the Earth will shake. Allah says:
"O mankind! Fear your Lord and be dutiful to Him! Verily, the earthquake of the Hour [Day of Judgment] is a terrible thing. The Day you shall see it, every nursing mother will forget her nursling, and every pregnant one shall drop her burden, and you shall see mankind as in a drunken state. Yet they will not be drunken, but the Torment of Allah will be severe." (22:1-2)
"That Day shall a man flee from his own brother, and from his mother and his father, and from his wife and his children." (80:34-36)
"One the day (when the first blowing of the Trumpet is blown), the earth and the mountains will shake violently." (79:6)
Whenever there was an earthquake, the early Muslims would regard it is as admonition: a juncture at which to seek forgiveness from Allah, to be reminded of the transient, perishing nature of this world and the inevitability and severity of being called to account on the Day of Shaking.