Earthquakes are rare in Australia, especially of that magnitude.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, speaking from the United States, where he met with President Biden to discuss a new security pact and submarine deal, said that the earthquake was “very disturbing” and that the federal government stood ready to support Victorians in their response. “But at this stage we have had no reports of serious injuries or worse, and that is very good news, and we hope the good news will continue.”
Some apartment buildings were evacuated in central Melbourne, a city of 5 million, where photos showed partially collapsed buildings and rubble on the streets. The quake was felt as far away as Sydney and in the capital, Canberra.
“Yes, that was an earthquake,” state premier Dan Andrews tweeted immediately after the quake, underscoring how unusual large quakes are in the country.
It also rattled state broadcaster ABC’s morning television presenters, one of whom stood up and prepared to evacuate the building. Seismologists said it was one of the biggest earthquakes the southeastern state of Victoria has experienced since European settlement.
Australia’s largest recorded earthquake was in 1988 at Tennant Creek in the remote Northern Territory, with an estimated magnitude of 6.6. It occurred in a sparsely populated area and resulted in damage to a major gas pipeline.
The quake didn’t dampen demonstrations in Melbourne against strict measures to control an outbreak of the delta variant of the coronavirus. Angry mobs swarmed the city for a third straight day Wednesday, with riot police firing what appeared to be rubber bullets in an effort to disperse the crowds. Officials halted all nonessential building work in the city for two weeks on Monday following a violent demonstration against vaccine mandates for the construction industry.
Australia has been grappling with an outbreak of the coronavirus’s highly contagious delta variant since mid-June, with Melbourne, Sydney and the capital in strict lockdowns for weeks.