Parts of Groningen were shaken by an earthquake measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale on Monday afternoon. The tremor was the biggest in the region since 2012 and the third strongest ever recorded, the KNMI said.
The epicenter of the quake was in the village of Zeerijp near Loppersum, but it was also felt in the provincial capital of Groningen, including at the city’s main hospital. According to provincial television station RTV Noord, the quake is the sixth to hit Zeerijp within a month.
On Twitter locals described the way homes in the region shook and creaked but police said no major problems were reported.
The quakes are caused by ground settling following the extraction of natural gas from under the province.
Last year the government reduced the volume of gas from 27 billion cubic metres to almost 22 cubic metres but locals say much more still needs to be done. Locals were also quick to describe the latest quake as a wake-up call to national government which had for years ignored the problem.
Economic affairs minister Erik Wiebes, who is responsible for natural gas extraction, is due to visit the province on Wednesday.
At the end of last year, the Council of State gave Wiebes one year to come up with proper arguments to support his decision to cap the extraction of gas from under Groningen province at 21.6 billion cubic metres a year.
The case was brought by a group of Groningen residents and green group Milieudefensie who say the safety of locals is more important than providing income for the treasury. They wanted gas production to be drastically reduced or stopped altogether.
The biggest quake, in 2012, measured 3.6 on the Richter scale and led to hundreds of reports of damage. Since the quakes began, some 75,000 complaints have been made about damage and the bill for research, shoring up property and damages claims has reached an estimated €1.3bn so far.