‘Probably the largest earthquake’ around Melbourne in 200 years, says expert
Dr Januka Attanayake, the research lead with the University of Melbourne’s Earthquake Seismology Earth Sciences unit, said preliminary estimates had the earthquake as a magnitude 5.8 to 6.0.
“If these preliminary estimates are correct, it is probably the largest earthquake we have felt around Melbourne in the last 175 to 200 years,” Attanayake said. “If it’s a magnitude 6.0, it’s the first in hundreds of years. This is the first earthquake of this magnitude I have seen here during my lifetime, and it has probably not been seen during the lifetime of several generations.”
“We record about 400 earthquakes less than magnitude 2.5 every year,” he said. “So earthquakes are not an exception.”
Usually, Attanayake and his team would put out more seismometers in the aftermath to try and detect aftershocks, which can last for months, but due to Covid-19 travel and work restrictions this was not possible, he said. Two significant aftershocks of 2.5 and 3.0 have already been detected by existing seismometers.
“It’s important work because if we can detect aftershocks we can detect the fault area that ruptured,” he said. “We need to know this information for proper future hazard analysis. It helps us detect expected ground motions of earthquakes going forward. This is essential information for engineers building city structures in future, as we can for example say how much ground motion can be expected at a given location over the next 50 years.”
Emergency services on scene after Betty’s Burgers on Chappel Street in Windsor was damaged following an earthquake Photograph: James Ross/EPA
at 2.05am BST
Mansfield Hotel manager Guy Haston fears there will be aftershocks later on in the day.
“Considering I originally come from Christchurch I’m quite used to earthquakes, and it was quite severe,” he said.
“I didn’t get the noise you normally associate with earthquakes but the rocking and rolling was quite severe, it lasted a good 20 seconds or so.”
Haston was in Christchurch for a 5.7 earthquake that he described as a “totally different feeling”.
“In Christchurch it was moving in one direction and then stopped and moved in a different direction, at that stage you thought it’s either going to get worse or stop, and luckily it did.”
Haston was at home when the earthquake struck Mansfield, and drove into town to start his shift early for fear of damage in the shop.
“I can’t see any visible damage, I thought there’s going to be stock down, but I walked in and one bottle fell off the rack and it didn’t even break,” he laughed.
“I thought I’d have a mess to clean up with the severity.”
Let’s go back from New York to Mansfield, near the epicentre of the earthquake.
The Witches Brew Cafe owner Rebecca Douglas was serving customers inside her Mansfield store when the earthquake struck.
“The whole place shook really,” she said.
“Nothing broke, thank goodness, but it was quite concerning. I said perhaps we should move outside just in case, and by that time it was already over.”
Douglas said the tremor, in total, lasted about 15 seconds.
“It started slow, built up and everyone was nervous. We heard this rumble, rumble like a big truck coming through the building,” she said.
“Since then, customers are here and getting lots of phone calls from concerned family and friends everywhere, I’m too busy making coffees but I have plenty of text messages as well.”
Douglas didn’t know if there’d been damage in the area, but believed the tremor was felt “right down to Cann River”, about seven hours south-east of Mansfield.
Scott Morrison promises federal assistance for earthquake response
Scott Morrison has just addressed travelling reporters in Washington about the earthquake.
He says the reports he’s seen to date don’t point to “serious injuries or things of that nature” and that is “very welcome news”.
He said Emergency Management Australia is liaising with state authorities, and the acting prime minister Barnaby Joyce is keeping him informed.
The federal government is ready to “to provide whatever assistance is needed, whether from the ADF or others”.
He said anyone in distress in Melbourne or beyond will be “well looked after”.
Morrison also said he’s been in contact with the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews.
Earthquake felt like a ‘loud crash’ in Mansfield, locals say
Mansfield Rudolf Steiner School and Kindergarten administrator Maisie Pilli was standing with her co-worker when she heard a “loud crash”.
“To me it sounded like a truck was going to crash into the building, and it wasn’t until me and my co-worker looked at each other and thought it was an earthquake that we ran to a doorway and stood there together,” she said.
Pilli felt the tremor for about 30 to 45 seconds, and was relieved the kindergarteners were off on school holidays.
“Everything was fairly sturdy, we didn’t see any damage, but we had a look around afterwards and nothing went too far off the shelves, the only thing we saw outside was a few water-tanks shaking,” she said.
Pilli said all Mansfield community noticeboards were “going off the charts”, with most people having had a similar experience.
“One of my friends with horses says all the horses went crazy and weren’t enjoying it,” she laughed.
“My poor dog’s at home and I know she’ll be thinking ‘what’s going on’?
“We really weren’t prepared for it being in our location, I think we’d jump under desks instead of a doorway next time.”
Damaged buildings following an earthquake along Chapel Street in Melbourne. Photograph: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images
at 1.47am BST