THE Goldfields have been hit by possibly the largest earthquake ever this morning, closing the Kalgoorlie Super Pit, damaging buildings and burying a teenage girl under rubble. Geoscience Australia spokesman Chris Thompson said the earthquake struck at 8.17am and had a magnitude of 5. Seismologist David Jepsen said the quake was the largest to hit the area in 25 years and possibly the largest ever.
A Fire and Emergency Services Authority spokesperson said the Boulder area had been the worst affected, damaging five or six older hotels on Burt St including the Golden Eagle and RocK Hotel. Kalgoorlie Inspector Craig Parkin said about 16 blocks in Boulder have been closed because of structural damage concerns to buildings. He said police had established road blocks to ensure the public could not access areas considered potentially unsafe.
“At the moment the council is instigating its recovery plan to make sure the buildings are structurally sound. “The time of day that it happened was just fortunate because the Golden Eagle Hotel on Boulder Road has lost its balcony and there are a couple of other pubs that have lost their walls.
A teenage receptionist at Goldfields Physiotherapy was knocked out after being buried under rubble when its roof collapsed. Her manager and colleagues dug her out. She was unconscious but came around before paramedics arrived. Burt and Lane St have been closed and FESA is warning people to avoid the area.
The earthquake forced the evacuation of Kalgoorlie’s Super Pit, the largest gold open pit mine in Australia. A Super Pit spokeswoman said workers were evacuated as a precautionary measure and workers had not suffered any injuries. She said geotechnical assessors were undertaking preliminary investigations to determine if there had been any damage to facilities.
Residents told ABC local radio they feared their homes may fall down with one saying her family sheltered beneath door frames. Some said there had been aftershocks. Two people from Boulder have been treated for minor injuries at Kalgoorlie Hospital but there have been no reports of serious injuries.
Several schools in the area have been damaged and school children evacuated. An Education Department spokesman said Boulder Primary School had been evacuated but is not closed after suffering damage during the earthquake. Building damage at Kalgoorlie School of the Air was also reported. The school has also been closed for the day. Administration staff at O'Connor Primary School were also forced to evacuate during the tremor due to building damage.
The Education Department spokesman said Kalgoorlie Primary School suffered little damage. Mr Thompson said the earthquake was on the larger end of the scale for Australia. Geoscience Australia seismologist David Jepsen said the quake hit about 10km southwest of Kalgoorlie and was fairly shallow.
Lifelong Goldfields resident and Kalgoorlie-Boulder mayor Ron Yuryevich described the quake as “the biggest one I’ve ever experienced”. He said many historic buildings had suffered structural damage, including the 104-year-old Town Hall, which had one of its walls shifted in the quake. “I’ve just come back from having a look at Burt St, which is where the major damage has been done,” he said. He described the latest report from ambulance officers that only two people had suffered minor injuries as “an excellent result”.
He said FESA and the local government had implemented an emergency plan and had evacuated and secured dangerous areas in the town.
See ABC TV Report http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJy3Fpn-xl4