A magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck south-eastern Australia on Wednesday, shaking buildings in Melbourne and running out of panicked residents in an area unaccustomed to earthquakes.
The earthquake, which struck only ten kilometers deep, surprised residents of Australia’s second largest city at 9 a.m. (23:00 GMT) and was felt hundreds of kilometers away. Round.
Rescue services have received calls for help as far as Dubbo, about 700 kilometers from the epicenter.
The United States Institute for Geological Studies (USGS) put the magnitude at 5.8, before revising it to 5.9.
Most of Melbourne’s residents, confined for eight weeks, were at home by the time the earth shook. Scenes of panicked residents leaving homes have invaded social networks.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, responding from New York, insisted there was no no casualties or significant damage.
He nevertheless conceded the side “very disturbing” earthquake for the population, in an area not used to tremors like Australia. A magnitude 4 aftershock occurred shortly after the first tremor.
Large earthquakes are unusual in Southeast Australia, a fairly densely populated region. “I was sitting at work at my desk … it took me a while to figure out what it was”, the mayor of Mansfield, near the quake’s epicenter, Mark Holcombe, said on ABC.
It’s about biggest earthquake in Southeast Australia in years. An earthquake of this magnitude occurs every “10 to 20 years in South East Australia, last was Thorpdale in 2012”, explains Mike Sandiford, a geologist at the University of Melbourne. “We had very large magnitudes six in the late 1800s, although the precise magnitudes are not well known.”, he stressed.
Australians should expect “several hundred aftershocks, most not perceptible to humans, but probably ten will be felt”, warned the scientist, speculating on the “$ billion in damage” the quake would have caused “if it had occurred under Melbourne”.
Work to repair the damage could be complicated by containment and ongoing events. Melbourne riot police on Tuesday used pepper spray and rubber bullets to break up a violent protest and said further gatherings “would not be tolerated”.