Magnitude 5.9 earthquake strikes Melbourne, Australia

A 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck southeast Australia on Wednesday, shaking buildings in Melbourne and scattering panicked residents in an area unaccustomed to earthquakes.

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The earthquake, which struck at a depth of only ten kilometers, surprised residents of the second largest city in Australia at nine in the morning and was felt for hundreds of kilometers around.

Rescue services received calls for help as far as Dubbo, about 700 kilometers from the epicenter.

The United States Institute of Geological Studies (USGS) estimated the volume at 5.8, before adjusting to 5.9.

Australia earthquake

France Press agency

Scenes of terrified residents leaving their homes have invaded social networks.

Among them is Zumi Vim, 33, the owner of Melbourne’s Open Café, who rushed into the streets when the quake struck.

“The whole building was shaking.” All the windows and glass were shaking like a wave of tremors.”

“I’ve never experienced this before. It was a little scary,” he says.

Australia earthquake

France Press agency

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, responding from New York, insisted there were no casualties or significant damage.

However, he acknowledged the “extremely worrying” aspect of the earthquake for residents, in a region as unaccustomed to tremors as Australia.

“Everything started shaking…everyone was in shock,” Parker Mayo, a 30-year-old coffee shop worker, told AFP, as photos of the Chapel Street shopping district show bricks had fallen to the ground.

A magnitude 4 aftershock occurred shortly after the first earthquake.

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Large earthquakes are unusual in southeastern Australia, which is a fairly densely populated area.

“I was sitting at work at my desk…it took a while to figure out what it was,” Mayor of Mansfield, near the epicenter, Mark Holcomb, said on ABC.

It was the largest earthquake in southeastern Australia in years, University of Melbourne geologist Mike Sandiford told AFP.

He said an earthquake of this magnitude occurs every “10 to 20 years in southeastern Australia, the most recent of which was Thorbdale in 2012”.

“We had a strength of six very large in the late nineteenth century, although the exact amounts are not well known,” he said.

The scientist warned that Australians should expect “several hundreds of aftershocks, most imperceptible to humans, but likely to be felt by dozens,” speculating on “billions of dollars in damage” that could have occurred. The earthquake was caused “if it happened in Melbourne”.

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