Earthquake sparks panic in Melbourne, Australia

Earthquake sparks panic in Melbourne, Australia
Earthquake sparks panic in Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne (AFP)

A 5.9-magnitude earthquake hit southeastern Australia on Wednesday, causing buildings to shake in the country’s second largest city, Melbourne, with a large number of residents rushing to the streets in fear, in an area unaccustomed to earthquakes.

The US Geological Survey said that the epicenter of the earthquake was located at a depth of only 10 kilometers from the surface of the earth, noting that it occurred shortly after 9:00 local time (Tuesday 23:00 GMT) and that residents hundreds of kilometers away felt it.

Rescue services announced that they had received distress calls from far away, as far as the city of Dubbo, about 700 kilometers from the epicenter.

The US Geological Survey initially estimated the earthquake’s strength at 5.8, before adjusting it to 5.9.

The majority of Melbourne residents, who have been in isolation for eight weeks, were at home when the earthquake struck.

Scenes of terrified residents leaving their homes spread on social media.

One of them, Zumi Beam, 33, a cafe owner in Melbourne, told AFP: “The whole building was shaking, all the windows as well as if it was a series of tremors.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this before, it was a little scary,” he added.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, speaking from New York, confirmed that no casualties or serious damage had been recorded.

But he acknowledged the “very disturbing” aspect of the quake for residents in a region unaccustomed to tremors such as Australia.

“Everything was shaking,” Parker Mayo, 30, who works in a cafe, told AFP. “Everyone was in shock.”

Pictures of bricks that fell to the ground in the Chapel Street business district in Melbourne were circulated on social media.

A magnitude 4 aftershock occurred after the first tremor.

– Unusual phenomenon –

Strong earthquakes are rare in southeastern Australia, a densely populated area.

Rescue services inspect earthquake-damaged homes in Melbourne on September 22, 2021. William West AFP / AFP

“I was at work sitting behind my desk … It took me a while to realize what was going on,” Mark Holcomb, mayor of Mansfield, near the epicenter, told ABC.

“It’s the strongest earthquake in southeast Australia in years,” University of Melbourne geologist Mike Sandiford told AFP.

“An earthquake of this magnitude occurs every 10 to 20 years in southeastern Australia, the last of which was in 2012,” he added.

“Six-magnitude earthquakes were recorded at the end of the 1800s, although the exact magnitude is not known,” he added.

Geoscience Australia said the quake was followed by a series of four aftershocks, with a magnitude of 2.5 to 4.1.

And the scientist warned that Australians should expect “hundreds of aftershocks, most of which are not felt by humans, but they will probably feel about ten of them,” predicting that the earthquake would have caused billions of dollars in losses “if it had fallen under Melbourne.”

But the work of repairing the damages may be complicated by the isolation measures and the ongoing demonstrations.

On Wednesday, hundreds of people in work clothes and workshop jackets descended on central Melbourne to protest against the decision to impose vaccinations for workshop workers, while most of the workshops in the city were closed.

On Tuesday, Melbourne riot police used rubber bullets and pepper spray to break up a violent demonstration and said new gatherings “will not be tolerated”.

© 2021 AFP

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