Rare Australian earthquake causes panic in Melbourne
Eva Deschamps / September 22, 2021
The 5.9 magnitude earthquake, which occurred at 09:00 am, was felt for hundreds of kilometers around.
Emergency services received calls for help as far away as Dubbo, about 700 kilometers from the epicenter.
Scenes of panicked residents emerging from their homes took over social media. Most of Melbourne's residents, who had been confined for eight weeks, were in their homes when the earthquake struck.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, reacting from New York, insisted that there were no casualties or major damage.
An aftershock of magnitude 4 occurred shortly after the first tremor.
Large earthquakes are unusual in southeastern Australia, a fairly densely populated region. This is the biggest earthquake in southeastern Australia in years, Mike Sandiford, a geologist at the University of Melbourne, told AFP.
Geoscience Australia said the quake was followed by a series of four aftershocks ranging in magnitude from 2.5 to 4.1.
Australians should expect several hundred aftershocks, most of them not perceptible to humans, but probably about ten will be felt, the scientist warned, speculating on the billions of dollars of damage caused by the quake if it had occurred beneath Melbourne.
The work to repair the damage could be complicated by the containment and the ongoing protests.
Hundreds of people wearing work boots and construction jackets poured into central Melbourne on Wednesday to protest against mandatory vaccinations for construction workers as most construction sites were abruptly shut down in the city.
On Tuesday, Melbourne riot police used pepper spray and rubber bullets to break up a violent protest and said further gatherings would not be tolerated.