Taiwan Army and Rescuers search for survivors from a collapsed building following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck in Tainan City, southern Taiwan. picture: EPA/ Ritchie B Tongo

An earth tremor, estimated to be 3.1 on the Richter scale, rumbled across Durban at 11am on Saturday - and was felt across the Berea, the central city and outlying areas.

It is uncertain whether the tremor had any links to the Taiwan earthquake hours earlier.

Council for Geoscience project manager, Michelle Grobbelaar, said details of the tremor would be known on Monday.

“All I can say at this stage is that it seemed to be located in the KwaZulu-Natal region. From the reports I have received, it is unlikely to be greater than magnitude 3.1, but we will have to analyse and confirm this.

There have been earthquakes in the province before.

The earliest we have on record is in 1932 off the coast of St Lucia,” she said.

Grobbelaar said she thought the tremor was unlikely to be linked to the Taiwanese event.

“There are theories that all the (tectonic) plates are connected and if one moves then it can cause the others to move. However, this is yet to be proven. South Africa is far from the African plate boundary and would probably not be affected anyway,” she said.

Professor of Geological Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Stephen McCourt, said there was no need to panic as South Africa was geologically “very stable”.

“The reality is there are lines of weakness (faults) in the rocks forming the crust of South Africa, and stress build-up along these faults may produce minor tremors.

”South Africa is not in a seismically active zone hence natural earthquakes are very rare. Large earthquakes (above 6 on the Richter scale) often have minor tremors or after-shocks, although the time interval between the main tremor and the after-shocks cannot be predicted,” he said.

US disaster recovery expert Prof Mary Comerio said there were 30 to 40 earthquakes a day of 4.5 or stronger magnitude and there were hundreds of smaller ones like yesterday’s. “There is not likely to be a connection with the event in Taiwan,” she said.

Provincial Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, said there were no incidents related to the tremor reported.

Nevertheless her department had the necessary resources to handle any disaster.

For Durban people though, feeling the earth move was unnerving.

Charles Nathan from Westbrook said he thought it was a tsunami as he lives 400m from the beach.

“It was only a few seconds, but it was very scary,” he said.

Craig Govender of Cowies Hill

described it as a “strange feeling with everything rattling.”

In Taiwan, 12 people have been declared dead and scores missing after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in southern Taiwan on Saturday.

Sunday Tribune