Members of a Christian service organisation and denomination, the Salvation Army, played a significant role in assisting the evacuation of families from parts of Kent, after the area was hit by a magnitude 5 on and off-shore earthquake earlier yesterday.
The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre recorded the tremor around 4.3 miles south east of Ashford at 08.18 GMT. There was widespread structural damage and dislocation. Some people may be forced out of their homes for weeks.
Mother-of-four Lorraine Muir, who witnessed the quake, told Sky TV News that chimneys had come down, gas and electricity supplies were cut off and people were being helped from their homes by Salvation Army personnel.
“I was very, very frightened… I’m shaking”, she declared yesterday morning. “We've been evacuated by the Sally Army, we've got no gas or electricity at the moment. It's chaos up here at the moment.”
The earthquake is the largest in Britain since one in Dudley in 2002. Events of this kind are rare in the south east. In 1580 a quake with a magnitude of 6 killed two people in London. There were also smaller tremors in 1776 and 1950 in the area, which were in the "low fours" and on a similar scale to the one today.
The Salvation Army comforted those affected by the quake with shelter and refreshments. Around 100 people, including families and the elderly, also arrived at a church in Canterbury Road, Folkestone.
It was one of the places affected by power cuts. Salvation Army Captain Peter West came to the rescue with an emergency vehicle equipped with its own gas and electric generator, to provide food and drinks.
"There was a lot of activity in the Canterbury Road area, which happens to be where the Salvation Army church is," he said. "A lot of people had been directed here by the emergency services.
Local churches across the region have been involved in the formulation of emergency plans involving fire, police and medical services, voluntary groups and council officers.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) reassured householders that claims will be met. Nick Starling, speaking for the ABI said: "These sudden, unexpected, and unwanted events are exactly what insurance is designed to cover."