'We thought it was just strong winds': Singaporeans in Melbourne shocked by earthquake

A damaged building in Melbourne's popular Chapel Street, after the 5.9-magnitude earthquake on Sept 22, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - When an earthquake struck Melbourne on Wednesday morning (Sept 22), Ms Melody Goh, 18, was working in a supermarket in the suburbs of the city.

The windows and roof of the supermarket were rattling "vigorously", her manager told her. The tremors, which also shook the shopping centre where the supermarket is located, lasted around 30 seconds.

Ms Goh, a Monash University freshman working part time at the supermarket, said she was in a storeroom at the time and did not feel the tremors.

But the shopping centre made an announcement over the public address system to say that an earthquake had occurred.

Ms Goh, who has been living in the city for 10 years with her parents, was among six Singaporeans in Melbourne The Straits Times spoke to after the 5.9-magnitude earthquake hit.

She said people were shocked as earthquakes of this magnitude were not a common occurrence in Australia. The last earthquake she experienced was in 2012.

"I looked at my phone to check the news and saw that everyone was asking one another if they felt it."

Ms Goh said her parents were having breakfast at home when they felt tremors at around 9.15am and saw cabinets shaking.

"My mum ran outside as she thought the house was going to collapse. She said the birds were chirping really loudly."

Ms Goh said her father was confused by the rattling of the roof and thought it was caused by possums at first.

Ms Shahirah Alqadri, who is a teacher at a local school, said that she woke up to tremors at about 9.15am. She felt her bed shaking and heard the windows and furniture in her home rattling.

The 37-year-old who has been living in Melbourne since 2018 said: "It was quite scary. I was concerned if I needed to evacuate and I have two cats with me."

Ms Shahirah said her friend living in South Australia felt the tremors too.

Ms Shahirah Alqadri has been living in Melbourne since 2018. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SHAHIRAH ALQADRI

Operations supervisor Liu YingXiu, 33, also woke up in the morning to find her whole house shaking. She said that the earthquake lasted about 20 seconds.

Ms Liu said: "We have been here for 12 to 13 years and have felt previous quakes but this is the strongest one."

After the tremors, she and her husband went around their house to check for damage and found some cracks on their walls and door frames.

Ms Liu YingXiu and her husband found some cracks on their walls and door frames after the tremors. PHOTOS: LIU YINGXIU

Some Singaporeans thought that the tremors were caused by strong winds, as Melbourne was no stranger to strong winds.

Lawyer Ash Sandra, 38, said that he lives close to state emergency services and did not hear any alarm when the earthquake happened.

He said: "My initial reaction was that it was likely a strong wind. It was only when the furniture and building started shaking that confusion became shock."

He added that he lost his Internet connection at home for about 10 minutes after that.

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Ms Lim Jia Yi, 23, a student at Monash University, was attending online lectures in her room in the residential hall when her "entire hall shook". She said everyone in her group chats was very surprised. Her online lecture was stopped halfway and students were told to check in with their friends and family.

It is Ms Lim's first time experiencing an earthquake. She said it happened too fast for her to react.

"I stood up from my chair and wondered why everything was shaking. I didn't know what was going on," she said.

"It felt like I was standing next to the train tracks when the train was passing by and everything was shaking.

"I was unsure of what to do as I've never experienced an earthquake before... But we got reassurances quite quickly that we didn't have to evacuate so that helped calm everyone down."

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Ms Lim added that the hall also reassured residents that the building, unlike the old buildings in the badly hit Chapel Street, was newer and built to withstand earthquakes.

"I texted my family almost immediately so they knew I was fine and unharmed."

Her next online lecture at 10.15am went ahead as scheduled.

Mr Zhou Tian Qu, 25, was also not badly affected, thanks to shock absorbers in his apartment building. He said that his room on the 27th floor was shaking but nothing fell. "There was a burger place in the city that broke apart," he said.

The University of Melbourne student, who has been living in Melbourne for six years, added that his classmates said in a group chat that they were awoken by their beds shaking and thought it was the wind.

One classmate said her bed shook for 10 seconds and stopped, after which she went back to sleep. Another felt dizzy after the tremors.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday morning, the Singapore High Commission in Canberra said that Singaporeans in affected areas should stay away from locations that are badly damaged by the earthquake, monitor the local news for updates and heed the advice of local authorities.

It also encouraged Singaporeans to stay in touch with their family and friends so that they know that they are safe.

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