‘It sounded like a bomb’: 300 mine workers inspect damage left by Swedish record earthquake

Work remained suspended at one of the world's largest iron ore mines on Tuesday morning as 300 workers descended to survey the scope of the damage after a record-breaking earthquake hit northern Sweden.

The earthquake shook the city of Kiruna shortly after 3am on Monday. Sweden is not an area that normally experiences a lot of powerful seismic activity, but tremors due to mining activities are not uncommon. But with a magnitude of 4.1 this was the country's biggest mining-related quake ever, and forced work to be halted.

Thirteen people were in the mine at the time, but they all evacuated and there were no injuries.

Rock mechanic engineers first examined the mine on Monday to see if work would be able to resume, and on Tuesday around 300 mine workers descended into the mine to inspect the full scope of the damage.

Production has yet to resume, and there is still ongoing seismic activity in the wake of the earthquake, with several aftershocks in Kiruna on Monday according to Björn Lund, a seismologist at Uppsala University.

“There is still activity, but it's gone down significantly compared to yesterday. It's not something that has been felt in Kiruna, other than perhaps a little during the night,” he told the TT newswire on Tuesday morning.

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Jonny Kumpula, an electrician, was down in the mine when the quake hit. He told Swedish public radio broadcaster SR that he and a colleague were in a fika room (see our Swedish vocabulary list below) 814 metres below ground when they heard the rumble.

“I fell off the couch. It sounded like a bomb exploding, or like thunder. Pictures came down from the walls and there was a lot of dust. My colleague and I looked at each other and said 'let's get out of here', and then we took our mining helmets and left,” he said.

Kumpula has been given the week off and said he felt shaken, but that he would return to work on Monday.

“Rock mechanic engineers are inspecting the mine, and we trust them,” he said.

The Local's reader Selam, who lives in Kiruna, commented on Facebook that the earthquake woke her up. “I jumped up from bed and ran to the window to look outside. Was thinking 'earthquake omg our apartment' and the bed was shaking. I could not continue sleeping. The good thing is it happened only one time,” she said.

Swedish vocabulary

coffee room at a workplace – (ett) fikarum

earthquake – (en) jordbävning

mining quake – (ett) gruvskalv

iron ore – järnmalm

aftershock – (ett) efterskalv


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