I’m all a-tremble

My living room, 8.53 pm. I’m sitting back on my couch with my feet up, watching Who Do You Think You Are, when I feel movement. “Hmmm… earthquake…” I stayed put, figuring it would be over in a few seconds. Earth tremors in Australia are fairly rare, and those that cause damage are even rarer.

This one seemed to go on and on, though. “Okay, that’s enough. You can stop now,” I said, as I took a firmer hold on the couch. It was getting a bit scary. Even after the initial tremor things kept moving for a couple of minutes.

The earthquake (green marker on the map) originated near Trafalgar and Moe, in Gippsland, eastern Victoria, not far from Darnum, where I grew up (about 18km west along the Princes Highway).

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I now live about 120km from the epicentre, and given the way my home shook I’m glad I wasn’t back on the farm. My sister still lives in that area and she thought she was going to be tipped out of her armchair.

The tremor has been rated at 5.2 by the US Geological Survey, and was minor compared to the quakes suffered by people in other parts of the world (although it was apparently the biggest to hit Victoria in more than a hundred years). Because earthquakes are so rare here it will be a major talking point for a day or two.

The New Zealand Herald reported on May 25, “Christchurch was hit by its largest earthquake in recent weeks this afternoon, with a 5.2-magnitude shake…” Between September 2010 and December 2011 Christchurch experienced four earthquakes of magnitude 6 or more. There were another 21 of magnitude 5.2 or more! See Christchurch Quake Map for details.

The twinge of fear I felt when tonight’s tremor continued for 30 or 40 seconds (much longer than the previous one a couple of years ago which was over almost before it began) makes me wonder even more how people who live in earthquake-prone regions cope. I can’t imagine what the people of Christchurch go through each time the ground begins to shake yet again.

Australia really is blessed when it comes to natural events that cause loss of life and property damage. We do have them – cyclones, fires and floods (and two earthquakes in my lifetime that caused fairly widespread damage) – but not on the scale and the frequency other areas of the world have.