Australia and Earthquakes. Surely Not…..

Well, I haven’t mentioned that nasty word beginning with F, flooding that is, for some time. That’s because the heavy rains eased up a long time ago and by and large, the weather is back to normal.

And as we are now well into autumn, cyclone season is over for another year. And for the same reason we can forget bushfires. So, everything is ticketyboo, yes?

No!

Over the weekend, we had an earthquake here in Queensland. The largest we’ve had for 70 years. On the Richter scale it was a 5.2 and occurred about 1100 kms north of Brisbane, 60 kms west of Bowen.

Let me say straight off that nobody was hurt and, as far as I can see, almost no damage was done either. The area is quite remote and clearly a 5.2 has way, way less impact than the devastating 9.0 that struck off the coast of Japan unleashing that terrifying tsunami, or even the 6.3 that hit Christchurch in New Zealand.

In fact this earthquake was so insignificant it didn’t even get its own “Dong!” On the news last night. We got…

  • Dong! Police are investigating another robbery on the Gold Coast.
  • Dong! Wills and Kate wedding video spoof goes viral.
  • Dong! More paperclips found in chocolate chip muffins.

OK, the third one isn’t true, but the other two definitely got their own Dongs. For the record, as far as I’m aware Australia has only ever had one chocolate chip muffin scare.

But in fairness, when the news did get underway the earthquake was the second or third story.

So, is Australia on a fault line?

Not really, no. These are the world’s fault lines…

Worlds Fault LinesCourtesy of Free Printable Maps

As you can see, Australia is pretty much in the clear. But that doesn’t stop us from having the odd earthquake, and apparently Western Australia and South Australia are the areas most likely to be hit.

So I looked into it.

The most powerful earthquake to hit Australia was a magnitude 7.3 that hit Meeberrie, Western Australia in 1941. Nobody was hurt and no damage was done. Hardly anybody was there. It’s a very deserted part of Australia.

The second biggest was a magnitude 6.9, again in Western Australia, this time Meckering in 1968. This one caused 20 injuries but no deaths, $5 million worth of damage with 60 buildings destroyed and some minor damage in Perth.

In all, five out of the top 10 most powerful earthquakes (ranging from 6.0 to 7.3) all occurred in Western Australia. Of the others, three were in Northern Territory, one in South Australia and the final one in Simpson Desert. That’s pretty much on the borders of South Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland.

But it’s an earthquake outside of the top 10 in terms of magnitude that stands as Australia’s worst ever. At 5.7, the quake that hit Newcastle in New South Wales on 27 December 1989 killed 13 killed people, injured more than 100 and caused over $8 billion in damage.

Incredibly, this earthquake was felt from as far away as the Gold Coast to Melbourne. As far as I can tell, it’s the only Australian earthquake to have cost lives, although the one in Warooka, South Australia has had two heart attacks associated with it.

But the truth is, earthquakes happen all the time. The world has had 36 of them in the last week, ranging between magnitudes of 1.0 up to 6.6. Unfortunately, most of them have been around here…….

World Eartquakes MapThing is, I don’t remember reading anything about this stuff when I was leafing through the brochures about migrating to Australia. All I remember is hot, sunny, clear blue skies and golden sandy beaches.

Fortunately, we have a lot of that too.

To find out more about earthquakes, visit ga.gov.au/earthquakes

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