Thursday, 28 February 2008

"A Significant Event" - February 27, 2008


The largest earthquake to have struck England and Wales in 25 years has caused millions of pounds of damage. The British Geological Survey said the quake was the largest since 1984 when a tremor measuring 5.4 hit north Wales. I felt the 1984 one - I was in the office of the Knowsley Housing Department on the fourth floor of the Municipal Buildings at the time and the waste paper basket moved across the floor. Strangely, someone at the other end of the office felt it but no one in between.

Checking damage in Grantham
The Association of British Insurers said the cost to businesses and householders is "likely to run into the low tens of millions of pounds". The clear-up is continuing as buildings are checked for structural damage. The quake struck at 12.56am, on Wednesday February 27, 2008 triggering hundreds of calls to emergency services across the country.

A United States Geological Survey map shows where the earthquake was felt. Measuring 5.2 on the Richter Scale (5.1 according to the BBC!), its epicentre was recorded five miles east of Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, and 14 miles south-west of Grimsby.

Damage in Barnsley
Buildings were damaged and a man from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, was taken to hospital after a chimney collapsed and fell through his bedroom roof. It was described as a "Significant event" in British terms though not, of course, in world-wide terms.

A road in Bootle

The crack on the left is new, Lincolnshire

The quake lasted for around seven seconds and was felt in places as far away as the coast of southern England, Scotland and Wales. A number of roads and driveways were cracked by the quake.

Damage in Grimsby

A roof in Wombwell

A wall in Leeds

A car in Worksop

The main external damage to buildings was to chimneys. Outside walls were also affected in some places. A few cars were unfortunate enough to be beneath falling masonry.

A lot of damage in a Manchester house

Cracks in a house in Norwich

A lot of Sky News readers also sent in photos of cracks which allegedly appeared in their houses as a result of the quake. I must check our chimneys though judging by the noise when the wind damaged one I would have heard if anything had come down.

A shop in Lincoln
In shops and offices there were minor, inconsequential, but in some places quite obvious signs of the earthquake.

The British Geological Survey said a second smaller earthquake was recorded at 2.46am. The nearby aftershock measured 1.8 on the Richter Scale. Dr Roger Musson, of the BGS, said the epicentre was situated 15km below the Earth's surface. "The full force of the tremor was not felt - there was 15km of rock between you and the epicentre," he said.

Fortunately the British retain their sense of humour throughout any crisis. This being little more than a fun event for most people resulted in two photos to the Sky News website -

Tracy Morter, Essex, 27/02/2008 14:16:00 As you can see we lost some roof and a few bricks from our house.

Clive Garrett, Leeds, 27/02/2008 14:23:00 A rubber duck at a full 90 degree tilt in my house. And I don't even own a rubber duck! May God (or other) have mercy on our humble planet (Amen).

I have yet to work out whether this picture of the McDonalds in Grimsby is a spoof or not. Are neon-type signs really filled with a liquid. I thought it was a gas. Or does it liquefy in contact with the air?

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Water Vole To Get Extra Protection


The water vole is to get legal protection from being killed, injured or taken from the wild as environmentalists fight to save the creature.
Immortalised by Ratty in "The Wind In The Willows", the snubby-nosed water vole has come under threat in recent years. Developers have built on much of their wetland habitat, and they have been hunted by the increasing population of American mink.

Alastair Driver, conservation manager for the Environment Agency, told Sky News the number of water voles in the UK has declined by 90% in the last ten years. "There has been accidental poisoning and cases of kids shooting them with air rifles. Female mink can get into their burrows and eat them, and huge amounts of wetland habitat has been drained for agriculture or developed." he said.

The water vole with now be protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. It will mean it is illegal to hunt, kill or remove water voles from April 6.

A number of other species will also join the list of protected wildlife, including the roman snail and spiny seahorse. It will become an offence to damage or obstruct the short-snouted and spiny seahorses' places of shelter. The protection is already afforded to a range of creatures, including the otter and grass snake.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Gambler makes a million from 50p

One lucky punter is believed to have become Britain's first betting shop millionaire with a 50p two million-to-one stake. The unnamed gambler placed a 50p bet on an eight-horse accumulator to net his million - William Hill's limit on horseracing.

The customer, said to be a regular at the bookmaker's betting shop in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, is yet to come forward to collect his winnings. William Hill said he places similar bets almost daily but has never come close to winning on any major scale before.

Eduardo da Silva


Arsenal striker Eduardo da Silva has been taken to hospital after suffering an horrific leg break in their Premier League clash with Birmingham. The injury was so shocking that players were left visibly upset, and the game was stopped for eight minutes. The Brazilian-born star was left in agony after a lunging tackle by City defender Martin Taylor sent him crashing to the floor at St Andrews.

Taylor was immediately sent off but the striker had to be given morphine by paramedics before he was able to be stretchered off wearing an oxygen mask. Players were left reeling in horror, with several unable to look at Eduardo's injury. Sky Sports said they would not replay the incident because the pictures were too horrific. Medical staff at the ground were also reported to be shocked.

Speaking after the 2-2 draw, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger blasted Taylor and said he should be banned from football. "The tackle was horrendous and I think this guy should never play football again. He has got nothing to do on a football pitch," Wenger said.

Eduardo could now face a fight to save his career. Player needed morphine and oxygen"The season is over for him, maybe more than the season, the injury is very bad," Wenger added. "It was a massive shock for the team. Eduardo is a fantastic guy and for the players to see him in such pain and to see his leg in such a shape had an effect."

TV commentators drew a comparison to Coventry City defender Dave Busst. His career was ended after he suffered a compound fracture of his right leg against Manchester United in 1996. Play was interrupted for 10 minutes before Busst was stretchered off and blood from his wounds was washed off the pitch.

Friday, 22 February 2008

The frog from hell

A 70-million-year-old fossil of a giant frog has been unearthed in Madagascar by a team of UK and US scientists.
The creature would have been the size of a "squashed beach ball" and weighed about 4kg (9lb), the researchers said. They added that the fossil, nicknamed Beelzebufo or "frog from hell", was "strikingly different" from present-day frogs found on the island nation. The team from University College London (UCL) and Stony Brook University, New York, said the frog would have had a body length of about 40cm (16 inches), and was among the largest of its kind to be found.

"This frog, a relative of today's horned toads, would have been the size of a slightly squashed beach-ball, with short legs and a big mouth," explained co-author Susan Evans, from UCL's Department of Cell and Developmental Biology.

"If it shared the aggressive temperament and 'sit-and-wait' ambush tactics of [present-day] horned toads, it would have been a formidable predator on small animals. Its diet would most likely have consisted of insects and small vertebrates like lizards, but it's not impossible that Beelzebufo might even have munched on hatchling or juvenile dinosaurs."

The researchers added that the discovery of the fossil supported the theory that Madagascar and the Indian and South American land masses could have been linked until the Late Cretaceous Period (75-65 million years ago).

"Our discovery of a frog strikingly different from today's Madagascan frogs, and akin to the horned toads previously considered endemic to South America, lends weight to the controversial model," Professor Evans explained.

Extraordinary rendition

Extraordinary rendition is a modern US eupehemism for exporting people to other countries so as to torture them. Even the Google definition - "the extrajudicial transfer of a person from one state to another" is interestingly phrased - "extrajudicial" !!!

In law, rendition is a "surrender" or "handing over" of persons or property, particularly from one jurisdiction to another. For criminal suspects, extradition is the most common type of rendition.

I prefer the idea that rendition is the "performance of a musical composition or a dramatic role" - i.e. these poor folk are taken abroad so as to make them sing!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

British Gas

"British Gas has been accused of "taking customers for a ride" on the eve of an expected announcement of a sixfold increase in its profits to £640 million.
Despite a drop in the cost of wholesale gas, the company has raised prices to customers, enabling it to increase the profit it makes from each one to almost £40, compared with just under £6 a year before.
British Gas will announce its operating profits for 2007 tomorrow, but a report by analysts at Citigroup has predicted the figure for residential gas and electricity supply will be £638.7 million, compared with a profit of £95 million in 2006.
Ann Robinson, the director of consumer policy for price comparison website, said: "British Gas is taking its customers for a ride. It has come bottom in recent surveys of customer service, yet it has put its prices up and massively increased its profits. It is very good at looking after shareholders but not at looking after its customers."
The cost of buying wholesale gas fell by 40 per cent in 2007, yet British Gas put up retail prices for gas and electricity by 15 per cent this year.
British Gas said: "We won't make any comment until the figures are released."

From the Telegraph via

Now the figuires have been published and British Gas still hasn't commented - Surprise, Surprise!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Skeleton in the closet

An estate agent is recovering from shock after he showed a group of viewers round a house - and found a dead body inside a wardrobe. House for sale with dead bodyThe buyers were browsing around the four-bedroom home during an open viewing while the owner's corpse was hanging in the master bedroom. And as soon as they laid eyes on the body they fled, with the shocked agent immediately locking the doors of the property in Quorn, Leicestershire, behind him and dialling 999.
The 48-year-old owner had put the detached house on the market for £350,000 after his elderly mother died. He reportedly told neighbours he was devastated by her death and the house held too many memories.