- The quake’s local intensity was estimated to be a IV on the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale, enough to make hanging items swing
- Though relatively mild, the tremor was one of the more significant to hit the city in recent years
Thousands of Hongkongers were awakened in the wee hours of Monday morning by a 4.1 magnitude earthquake that occurred near the coast of southeastern China, according to the Hong Kong Observatory.
According to the Observatory’s preliminary analysis, the earthquake took place at 2.29am on Monday, with the epicentre located about 92km east-northeast of Hong Kong.
The Observatory said it had received more than 10,000 reports of minor shaking lasting just a few seconds. The quake’s local intensity was estimated to be a IV on the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale. At that level, hanging items swing and loose objects rattle.
The mainland Chinese cities of Shanwei and Huizhou, in Guangdong province, were nearer to the epicentre, data from the US Geological Survey showed.
Honorary professor Chan Lung Sang, of the University of Hong Kong’s department of earth sciences, said the tremor was one of the more significant to hit the city in recent years.
“Earthquakes along coastal South China are not rare. This one, however … measured a III to IV degrees on the intensity scale, which is among the highest over the past 15 years or so,” said Chan.
With Hong Kong located in a zone known as the Southeast China Coastal Active Seismic Belt, Chan said light earthquakes with a Richter magnitude of 3 to 4 were common, with bigger ones clocking in above 6.0 on the scale taking place within 150km of the city every century or so.
“An event that affects [Hong Kong] does not have to be very close. A sufficiently big one that occurs, say, 200km from Hong Kong, may cause some extent of damage,” he said.
“The chance of having a significant one in our lifetime is low, but we should always be prepared, even for low-risk incidents.”
Professor Owen Richard Bernhart, from Baptist University’s geography department, also reassured residents that minor earthquakes were common around the region and typically did not cause significant damage.
Still, Monday’s quake caught some locals off guard. One 26-year-old Hongkonger, who gave her name as Patricia, said she was shaken awake by the tremor last night, believing at first that it was her body that was trembling.
She only realised it had been an earthquake after checking phone and seeing social media posts about the incident.
“The thought of an earthquake didn’t cross my mind, as [it is] somewhat unthinkable in Hong Kong,” said Patricia, who lives in an 8th-floor flat in Tin Hau. “Strange times in Hong Kong.”
Another resident, who gave his name as John William, was still awake when he felt his bed, wardrobe and door start rattling. The 23-year-old also found out on social media that his friends were experiencing similar things.
“I was in shock. To think an earthquake can make its way here to Hong Kong,” he said. “I couldn’t sleep afterwards after thinking of worst-case scenarios. But in the end, I was just glad it wasn’t strong enough to a point stuff could start falling down.”