Melbourne Earthquake Causes Superficial Damage to Victoria Buildings

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By Vittorio Hernandez | June 21, 2012 11:01 AM EST

Although the Tuesday temblor that shook Victoria was the biggest earthquake to rock the state in three decades, the buildings suffered only superficial damage. A construction expert explained the strength of Victoria buildings to changes in building regulations in the aftermath of the magnitude 5.6 earthquake in Newcastle in 1989 that killed 13 people.

Saman De Silva, a senior lecturer at RMIT's civil and environmental engineering school, said that by Australian standards, the Tuesday tremor was a reasonable event but did not have to strength to cause extensive damage or threaten the occupancy of the edifices. Most of the damage was non-structural, Mr De Silva said.

David Hallett, the general manager of Archicentre, a building inspection service, said building owners could expect to find only cracks in older brick buildings. However, he said that the cracks were more the result of soil movement caused by the recent drought on some pre-World War II structures around Melbourne. Mr Hallett said the Tuesday quake only worsened these weaknesses.

"If they're relatively new, well built, well-maintained buildings there's probably not too much risk, but it's the older buildings that perhaps already have some weaknesses that could be problematic," SkyNews quoted Mr Hallett.

Marco Maldoni, seismologist at Geoscience Australia, said 60 aftershocks were recorded in Australia on Wednesday most of them were small and hardly felt by residents. He said the magnitude 5.3 tremor that shook the state on Tuesday happens on the average only once every 15 years since 1900.

Although there were reports of cracked walls, grocery items that fell on the supermarket floor and people who fell from their chairs, there were no accounts of injuries, deaths or major damage.

Geoscience Australia identified the epicenter at the Coalville in the Latrobe Valley, located 16 kilometres southwest of Moe, although the tremor was felt for about 40 seconds throughout Gippsland, Melbourne and in Canberra. It was recorded at 8:53 p.m.

Although experts warned that another major earthquake could hit Victoria within 12 months, a relatively weak layer of sedimentary rock under Melbourne means the chance of the temblor going beyond magnitude 3 is remote, said Dr David Jepsen of Geoscience Australia.

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