Australia: Magnitude 5.9 earthquake detected in north-east Victoria

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Victorian town of Mansfield (pictured in 2012) was the epicentre of the earthquake.
Image: User:Mattinbgn.

An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.9 was detected on Wednesday in the Australian town of Mansfield, which is located in the north-east of Victoria. Geoscience Australia stated the earthquake was recorded in Mansfield at 9:15am local time with a 10 kilometers (6 mi) depth. An estimated 15 minutes after the initial event, an aftershock of 4.0 magnitude occurred near Mansfield. The agency declared the earthquake is one of the largest to occur since colonisation in east Australia.

The earthquake was felt across the country, with over 15,000 recording on the Geoscience Australia website they had felt it. ABC News reported the earthquake was felt in the states of Victoria, New South Wales (NSW), South Australia, and Tasmania, as well as the nation's capital of Canberra. In the inner suburbs of Melbourne, apartment buildings were evacuated, with reports of building and road damage shared on social media. Local authorities confirmed there was no risk of tsunamis.

Fire and Rescue New South Wales "dispatched crews across NSW from Alexandria, Manly and Hornsby in Sydney to as far as Dubbo in Western NSW following reports of tremors felt across the state" as a result of the earthquake, though no major structural damage was reported in New South Wales.

Karen McGregor, an employee of FoodWorks in Mansfield, reported "the windows started shaking, the walls, and everything on the desk, it was really quite scary. We ran downstairs to the shop, it was really, really scary down there. The windows were buckling. I was very scared. I just thought, oh my God, is this place going to fall down?" McGregor added she had not heard of any injuries in the town.

Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia, in 2019.
Image: Juliao Fernandes, Presidency of East Timor.

From Washington, D.C., Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said "it can be a very, very disturbing event for an earthquake of this nature. They are very rare events in Australia and, as a result, I am sure people will have been quite distressed and disturbed by that." Morrison confirmed he was in contact with Victorian state Premier Daniel Andrews, and the Australian federal government was prepared to provide support to Victorians where needed, including the possibility of deploying the Australian Defence Force if necessary.

While Geoscience Australia initially reported an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.0, the head of the Seismology Research Centre Adam Pascale has said "we think it's a mag-5.8 potentially at this point in Gippsland", adding the earthquake "shook here in the northern suburbs of Melbourne for about 15-20 seconds so it's quite a significant earthquake". Geoscience Australia has since revised the magnitude to 5.9.

Further aftershocks remain a possibility, with Pascale saying "there's usually a primary and a secondary wave", and geoscientist Mark Quigley telling The Age "for something of that size, we're talking about a fault that would be on the order of maybe 5 kilometres long and three kilometres wide. For an earthquake of that magnitude, we would expect to get hundreds of small aftershocks. We could get aftershocks in the range of 4.5 magnitude."