An earthquake measuring 3.1 on the Richter scale hit parts of Groningen province just after 20.00 on Wednesday evening. The epicentre was some 20 kilometres east of the city of Groningen.

The strongest quake ever to hit the region measured 3.6 on the Richter scale and was in 2012.

The quakes are caused by the ground settling following the extraction of natural gas from under the province. The government has been forced to screw back production because of the quakes, which have damaged thousands of homes.

Last month a court in Assen ruled that gas extraction company NAM must compensate home owners for the loss of value to their homes because of the earthquakes, whether or not they are up for sale.

The court said NAM, a 50:50 joint venture between Shell and ExxonMobil, is responsible for the earthquakes and is therefore liable for the damage.

Local home owners, united in the WAG foundation, say 100,000 homes have been hit by the quake risk and are now worth over €1bn less than they should be. The foundation represents 12 housing corporations and some 900 private owners.