A minor earthquake measuring five on the Richter scale struck Kent County in southeast Britain Saturday morning, causing damage but no injuries, British television said.

Sky News quoted witnesses as saying that houses had been damaged and chimneys torn from roofs. The earthquake alarmed many local residents because tremors are rare in Britain. Many thought the jolt was an explosion wave.

"We were virtually thrown out of bed at 8:15 a.m., we thought something had exploded in our house," Andrei Ostalsky, head of the Russian BBC Service, said over the phone from Folkestone, Kent, adding that the town had no electricity, the trains had stopped, and telephones were not working.

The American Geological Service said the epicenter of the quake was from seven to 10 kilometers (four-six miles) underground.

Gas supplies have been suspended in some towns for fear of leaks. People are being evacuated as a precaution. Kent police has recommended that local residents stay at home if their houses have not been seriously damaged. Trains, including the Eurostar express bound for Paris and Brussels via Kent, are running to schedule.