A false report about an imminent earthquake in North Rhine-Westphalia drove several thousand people outdoors on Wednesday night. The warning spread via social media, especially in the Romanian communities in various cities, the police said. Emergency services struggled to calm people down. Some would have stood outside for hours for fear of collapsing houses, others would have wanted to sleep in their cars.
"People rang each other out of bed to warn each other," said a police spokeswoman in Duisburg. Around 1000 people were finally on the streets in Duisburg alone. "We tried to calm people down. But many were really, really scared.” There were also many emergency calls to the police in Hagen. "Callers were massively concerned because they had this alert on their phones," a spokeswoman said. In Cologne, around 500 people gathered in the parking lots around a large high-rise complex.
It was still unclear to the police on Wednesday where the warning of an impending earthquake in NRW came from. "This is of course an absolutely disgraceful false report," said a spokesman for the state control center. "Fortunately there were no injuries in the panic in the stairwells."
Sebastian Busch, Head of Geophysics at the North Rhine-Westphalia State Earthquake Service, emphasizes that it is not possible to make a precise forecast for earthquakes anyway. Experts can only work with statistical probabilities but cannot say that there will be an earthquake in a certain region the following night.