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Village near west coast of France evacuated after tremors

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A 5.8 magnitude tremor hit at around 6.30 pm on Friday, forcing the 500 or so residents of La Laigne to evacuate as cracks appeared in many houses.

Cracked houses, an unusable church, and people needing to be rehoused: the damage was being assessed on Saturday in the east of Charente-Maritime in western France, the epicentre of a “very strong” earthquake felt on Friday from Rennes to Bordeaux. 

After the first shock at 6:30 pm on Friday, which according to the French Central Seismological Office registered 5.8 on the Richter scale, a second tremor of 4.5 hit at around 4.30 am on Saturday.

A third 5.1-strong tremor arrived several hours later, adding to the fears of local residents, some of whom are unable to return to their dangerously weakened homes.

Dozens of houses in the market town of La Laigne in Charente-Maritime have been declared “uninhabitable” by the fire brigade. 

Tony, a 46-year-old site manager, is moving in with friends:

“We’re going to get some things and then we’re going to try and get out of here,” he told AFP. “We’ve got nothing (no injuries) and that’s the main thing. But we lost everything in the space of 10 seconds.

“It’s unfortunate for us and for the whole village. You only have to look at the church, it speaks for itself”, he said, referring to the badly damaged bell tower.

According to fire chief Didier Marcaillou, 135 buildings in La Laigne were directly affected, with 170 people needing to be rehoused.

“Most of the houses in the centre of the village were affected to varying degrees,” said Nicolas Basselier, Prefect of Charente-Maritime. “The church is completely unusable. The school will have to be closed as a precaution.”

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