Residents of the Dutch city of Groningen are up in arms over onshore gas drilling that has triggered earthquakes, damaging homes and sending property prices crashing.
The last tremor, registering 3.0 on the Richter scale, hit the nearby village of Garrelsweer late on Tuesday night and rocked a dyke holding back the North Sea – fuelling fears that gas extraction could lead to major earthquake disaster in Holland.
"It was like a tractor crashing into my house," said Elly Broekmans, who suffered extensive damage to her property including widening cracks in structural walls.
The government and the consortium responsible for the drilling concede that the earthquakes are caused by the extraction of natural gas from shale rocks deep below the Groningen region, where there are up 1,800 natural faults in the porous Rotliegend sandstone subsurface.
While not the same process of extraction as "fracking", the developments in Groningen and surrounding towns will alarm Britons living over the huge Bowland Basin shale gas reserve, which stretches under Cheshire, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Yorkshire.
The tremors of Tuesday night's earthquake were measured by sensors on the Lauwersmeer Dijk, a dyke holding back the sea at a national park 25 miles away, an event that alarmed the Dutch StabiAlert company that monitors local sea defences for subsidence.
According to the company the earthquake's impact was similar to truck loaded with 70 tons of rocks driving over the Lauwersmeer embankment – raising fears of a possible flooding disaster if dykes nearer to the epicentre of a tremor are breached.
"What happens to dikes that are lying much closer to an epicentre?," asked Reinier Brongers of StabiAlert.
The fears of residents have not been assuaged by comments from Chiel Seinen, the spokesman for the Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM), a gas consortium including Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp, who conceded that people's lives might be in danger.
"You can never exclude anything if people are in the wrong place at the wrong time," he told the BBC last month.
The Groningen gas field is the largest natural gas field in Europe. While it has been exploited for almost 50 years, earthquakes are now becoming more frequent, averaging one a week, compared to fewer than 20 a year before 2011.
As the earthquakes become more intense and more frequent the government faces growing local pressure to reduce drilling. But it has little room to manoeuvre, other than offering compensation, because of the gas field's importance to the Dutch economy.
Last year, the Dutch state made £12 billion in government revenues from the Groningen gas fields and if the cash flow was switched off the country would quickly go bankrupt.
Residents fear that their wellbeing is being sacrificed.
Up to 60 per cent of the 60,000 homeowners in the Groningen region have experienced earthquake damage to their homes and a local anti-drilling activist group,De Groninger Bodem Beweging (GBB) or Groningen Ground Movement, has complained that many houses have become unsellable.
"Many people feel they have become prisoners in their homes. They can't move," said Daniella Blanken, the GBB spokesman.