Earthquake, 4.6, hits Switzerland

A map showing the latest earthquake action

The Swiss are buzzing about an earthquake that struck on Monday night. With a magnitude of 4.6 on the Richter scale, it was one of the strongest earthquakes to hit the nation in years.

This content was published on March 7, 2017 - 08:10

According to the Swiss Seismological ServiceExternal link at federal technology institute ETH Zurich, the earthquake was first registered at 9:12pm in canton Schwyz. Later, they identified Linthal in canton Glarus as the quake’s epicentre. Earthquakes of this magnitude can cause slight or moderate damage.

As the Schwyz cantonal police told the Swiss News Agency, they received about 25 calls from worried citizens. For a couple of seconds, everything at the police station was vibrating, but there was no damage. In Glarus, the police received dozens of calls. The Glarus building insurance organisation said on Tuesday that no major damage had been reported. It received only ten calls with reports of cracks in walls and damaged water pipes and collapsed chimneys. 

The leftwing Young Green PartyExternal link used the earthquake as an opportunity to point out that Switzerland’s nuclear reactors are old, and might not survive a stronger quake.

The earthquake was felt in northern Italy, as well. This Switzerland TourismExternal link video shows the area where the earthquake hit:

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Every couple of years

Monday night’s quake was one of the strongest to strike Switzerland in recent years. In 2016, the seismological service registered 31 perceptible earthquakes – clearly more than the long-term average of 23 per year. Last year’s strongest earthquake – a 4.1 – hit on October 24 in Leukerbad, canton Valais. Tremors of this magnitude come every one to three years.

The areas most exposed to earthquakes in Switzerland, in red, are Valais, the Basel region, the Rhine valley (canton St Gallen) and Graubünden. ETH Zurich

In 1878 Switzerland founded the Swiss Earthquake Commission, the world’s first permanent organisation for observing earthquakes. Federal authorities established the Swiss Seismological Service in 1914.

Today, the service has more than 100 monitoring stations around Switzerland. As of its 100th anniversary, it had recorded about 13,100 earthquakes – only about 1,600 of which were noticeable.

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