Magnitude 5.9 earthquake strikes near Melbourne

People gathering near a damaged building in Melbourne, after a 6.0-magnitude earthquake on Sept 22, 2021. PHOTO: AFP
Emergency and rescue officials examining a damaged building in Chapel Street in Melbourne on Sept 22, 2021. PHOTO: AFP
Rescue workers examining a damaged building in the popular shopping Chapel Street in Melbourne. PHOTO: AFP
Victoria State Emergency Service confirmed the quake's epicentre was about 200km north-east of Melbourne. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Social media images showed rubble on Melbourne’s streets. PHOTOS: SCREENGRAB FROM @STARGAZER8888/TWITTER, @MIDLIFEBANTER/TWITTER

SYDNEY/MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - An earthquake of magnitude 5.9 struck near Melbourne in Australia on Wednesday (Sept 22) around 7am Singapore time, Geoscience Australia said, causing damage to buildings in the country's second-largest city and sending tremors throughout neighbouring states.

The quake's epicentre was near the rural town of Mansfield, about 200km north-east of Melbourne, and was at a depth of 10km. An aftershock was rated 4.0.

Images and video footage circulating on social media showed rubble blocking one of Melbourne's main streets, while people in northern parts of the city said on social media they had lost power and others said they were evacuated from buildings.

The quake was felt as far away as Adelaide city, 800km to the west in the state of South Australia, and Sydney, 900km to the north in New South Wales state, although there were no reports of damage outside Melbourne and no reports of injuries.

More than half Australia's 25 million population lives in the south-east of the country from Adelaide to Melbourne to Sydney.

"We have had no reports of serious injuries, or worse, and that is very good news and we hope that good news will continue," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in the United States where he is attending meetings.

"It can be a very disturbing event, an earthquake of this nature. They are very rare events in Australia and as a result, I am sure people would have been quite distressed and disturbed."

Quakes are relatively unusual in Australia's populated east due to its position in the middle of the Indo-Australian Tectonic Plate, according to Geoscience Australia. The quake on Wednesday measured higher than the country's deadliest tremor, a 5.6 in Newcastle in 1989, which resulted in 13 deaths.

Mansfield mayor Mark Holcombe said he was in his home office on his farm when the quake struck and ran outside for safety.

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"I have been in earthquakes overseas before and it seemed to go on longer than I have experienced before," Mr Holcombe told the ABC. "The other thing that surprised me was how noisy it was. It was a real rumbling like a big truck going past."

He said he knew of no serious damage near the quake epicentre, although some residents reported problems with telecommunications.

No tsunami threat has been issued to the Australian mainland, islands or territories, the country's Bureau of Meteorology said in a statement.

The quake presented a potential disruption for anti-lockdown protests expected in Melbourne on Wednesday, which would be the third day of unrest that has reached increasing levels of violence and police response.

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