Emergency warning issued as Victorians told to brace for aftershocks after 5.8 magnitude earthquake

Date: 2021-09-21 23:39:18

A “watch and act” emergency warning has been issued for Victoria as residents are told to brace for more aftershocks after a record-breaking earthquake struck the state.
The 5.9 magnitude quake hit near Mansfield, 180km north-east of Melbourne, about 9.15am today, according to Geoscience Australia.

The earthquake is the largest Victoria has ever experienced.

Damaged buildings following an earthquake are seen along Chapel Street in South Yarra after the earthquake. (Getty)

It initially recorded a 6.0 magnitude which was later revised down to 5.8 and then up to 5.9, with tremors lasting for between 30 and 40 seconds.

Deputy Premier James Merlino said the state was on alert as there was a potential risk of further earthquakes and aftershocks which could occur for weeks and months.

“Geoscience has confirmed there is a possibility we may receive further aftershocks and potential risk of further earthquakes,” he said.

“More aftershocks could occur for weeks, if not months.”

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said while there was still “significant aftershocks” that could impact Victoria, it was unlikely they would exceed the magnitude felt this morning.

There have been six aftershocks following the earthquake, sized 3.5, 4.1, 2.5, 3.1, 2.4 and 2.9.

One of the aftershocks with a 4.0 magnitude was recorded 18 minutes after the first tremor.

Buildings have been damaged in the epicentre of Mansfield, but there are no reports of injury at this stage.

Mr Crisp said the earthquake’s epicentre was somewhere between Mansfield and Rawson, but tremors had been felt as far as interstate.

“I think everybody felt the effects of this particular event, whether you were in Mildura, Mallacoota or the west of the state, we know there were people monitoring this earthquake in Adelaide, Tasmania and into NSW,” he said.

Beechworth Hospital lost power today but remains equipped with backup generators.

Melbourne earthquake aftermath

Mr Merlino said helicopters have been dispatched for aerial intelligence gathering.

“EMV has issued a state-wide warning at ‘watch and act’ level – and that has been issued for the whole of Victoria,” he said.

VicEmergency on its website urged Victorians to remain on alert.

“If you are located in Victoria, you are in danger,” the warning read.

“Expect aftershocks, stay away from damaged buildings and other hazards. Avoid driving, except for emergencies.”

There have been more than 100 calls for assistance across the state following the earthquake, 55 being in the metropolitan Melbourne area, related to minor structural damage to buildings and chimneys.

The Melbourne suburbs hit by building damage including Kensington, Ascot Vale, Parkdale, Prahran, Balwyn, Elsternwick, Northcote and West Melbourne.

“What we have seen as a result of the 5.9 earthquake that affected Victoria today is a range of minor structural damage,” SES Chief Officer Operations Tim Wiebusch said.

Mr Wiebusch flagged building wall collapses on Chapel Street in South Yarra and Brunswick Road in Fitzroy as areas damaged by the quake.

People are seen examining damaged buildings along Chapel Street following an earthquake on September 22, 2021 in Melbourne. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images) (Getty)

About 35,000 residents lost power this morning, the majority being in Melbourne’s north, but most have had their power restored.

Incident control centres have been set up in Dandenong, Mansfield and Benalla.

There have been some impacts to public transport, including on the Traralgon and Seymour rail lines.

Mr Merlino said he did not feel the quake, but his wife and children – who were getting vaccinated – did feel the tremors.

“It was right across Melbourne and many parts of regional Victoria, this was quite a significant event and quite scary for a lot of people,” he said.

“Please take care, keep observing the EMV alerts and warnings that have been issued and there will be more to say later in the day.”

A section of Chapel Street has been taped off following the earthquake. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images) (Getty)

More than 35,000 people have so far reported feeling the earthquake to Geoscience Australia.

Tremors were also felt across Canberra, South Australia, Tasmania and NSW, including in Sydney, Bathurst and Dubbo.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Adelaide was evacuated, with SA Premier Steven Marshall advising authorities were monitoring for potential aftershocks.

The earthquake struck at a depth of 10km, which is understood to be relatively shallow for an earthquake.

“For Victoria, this is the largest earthquake we have experienced,” Mr Wiebusch said.

“We were very fortunate that the 5.9 earthquake occurred in regional Victoria which is largely unpopulated.”

The second-largest earthquake in Victoria was in Mount Hotham in 1966 which had a magnitude of 5.7.

Today’s earthquake was even larger than Newcastle’s 1989 earthquake disaster which killed 13 people.

Mr Wiebusch advised Victorians of the safety measures to undertake during an earthquake: “drop, cover and hold”.

A building has been damaged from the earthquake. (Nine)

Speaking from Washington DC, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there had been no reports of serious injuries at this stage.

“That is very good news, and we hope that good news will continue,” he said.

Mr Morrison said he had been in contact with Premier Daniel Andrews and the Federal Government would provide whatever assistance was necessary, including ADF support, if required.

“We’ll get further reports as the night unfolds here in the United States, but it can be a very, very disturbing event for an earthquake of this nature,” Mr Morrison said.

“They are very rare events in Australia.

“As a result, I’m sure, people would have been quite distressed and disturbed by that particularly in the most immediate area affected.”

The earthquake struck east of Melbourne, near Mansfield. (Geoscience Australia)

Mr Morrison said Emergency Management Australia was liaising with state authorities.

He has asked Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and the Emergency Management Minister Bridget McKenzie to keep him informed of developments.

“Regardless of whether it’s a flood, bushfire, earthquake or cyclone, we have some of the best disaster response agencies anywhere in the world, if not the best,” Mr Morrison said.

Damaged buildings along Chapel Street are seen following an earthquake on September 22, 2021 in Melbourne. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images) (Getty)

Images of minor damage to buildings have flooded social media, with Chapel Street in South Yarra appearing badly hit with damage.

Video shows rubble scattered across the ground after building walls collapsed, prompting falling bricks to smash across the street.

Dozens of locals have been standing around in shock over the quake.

The old building destroyed by the earthquake had a Betty’s Burger business below and apartments above.

9News understands residents escaped just in time before the walls collapsed.

A Coles nearby has also been damaged.

The Chapel Street area has been cordoned off while authorities assess the damage and the road between St John Street and Union Street has closed.

Chapel Street local Patrick told Today said he initially thought the trembling was a result of construction works.

“I felt the building rattle so I grabbed my puppy and went underneath the doorway and just let it unfold,” he said.

“I actually thought it was as a result of the tunnel works that were happening near me.”

An earthquake has hit Victoria, with minor damage on Chapel Street in South Yarra. (Nine)

A number of buildings were forced to evacuate this morning as a precaution, including the Channel 9 headquarters in Docklands.

Firefighters will assess a number of buildings in the CBD after the earthquake triggered fire alarms.

Locals in the Victorian ski village of Mount Buller, just 47kms east of the earthquake epicentre, were rocked by the tremors, describing the sound like a “plane roaring overhead”.

Richard Ross was standing at the bench making coffee when the roars of the earthquake struck.

“I heard a real rumble and started to feel a shake,” he told Weatherzone.

“At first I thought it was a big load of snow coming off the roof, but we only had a small fall of snow this weekend, so I realised pretty quickly it must be an earthquake.

“All the dishes started rattling, just shaking and rattling for maybe a minute. It was quite intense.

“Then we felt a couple of aftershocks. We actually heard them. It was like a plane roaring overhead.”

Mr Andrews posted on Twitter soon after the quake hit, advising Victorians to stay alert and monitor the Emergency Victoria website.

“Yes, that was an earthquake,” he said.

“Keep an eye on the Emergency Victoria website for the latest information.”

Rubble is scattered on the ground in South Yarra. (Nine)

SES Victoria said anyone who needs assistance or has suffered building damage should phone 132 500.

“A magnitude 6.0 earthquake has occurred with an epicentre near Mansfield in Victoria,” a post on Twitter read.

“Widespread felt reports. If you have building damage or require SES assistance, phone 132500 and please be patient as lines may be busy.”

Tony Jones reacts to earthquake live on air

Jones was on-air speaking to a caller from Safety Beach when the studio started shaking.

“Have we have just had an earth tremor?” Jones said.

“Sorry, we are just having an earth tremor at the moment.

“This is quite disturbing.”

The caller also said their house was “rocking”.

Low, medium magnitude earthquakes ‘quite common’

Monash University Professor of Tectonics and Geodynamics Sandy Cruden said low to medium magnitude earthquakes were quite common in central and south-east Victoria.

“Many of them are associated with ancient faults that have a history of recent reactivation,” she said.

“The Mt Skene earthquakes appear to be the northward continuation of a so-called neotectonic fault that starts in the vicinity of Morwell and then heads northeast to Lake Glenmaggie, where it turns to the northwest, following the MaCalister River valley towards Licola and Mansfield.”

Earthquakes can occur due to a combination of the presence of ancient structures in the bedrock and high horizontal stresses related to the fact that the Australian continent is actively colliding with Papua New Guinea in the north.

“This is tilting the Australian landmass ever so slightly to the north, which is why we see cliffs along most of the south coast of NSW, Victoria, SA and WA,” she explained.

“The stresses generated by these processes get released from time to time as earthquakes.

“Given that we already know of two foreshocks, further aftershocks are highly likely.”


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