According to media reports, Victoria’s buildings have come through the state’s biggest earthquake in more than a century relatively unscathed.
Thanks to a change in building regulations following the fatal 1989 Newcastle earthquake, senior lecturer at RMIT’s civil and environmental engineering school Saman De Silver says modern buildings in the Melbourne metropolitan area would have survived unscathed, with only superficial damage occurring in older buildings.
“By Australian standards this is a reasonable event,” De Silver is quoted as saying on Sky News. “Having said that it’s unlikely it had the capacity to do enough damage to threaten the occupancy of the buildings. It is pretty much non-structural damage that we’re talking about.”
David Hallett, general manager of Archicentre, the building design, inspection and advice service of the Australian Institute of Architects says owners could expect to find cracks in older brick buildings, and that previous weaknesses resulting from cracks in some pre-WWII buildings around Melbourne caused by soil erosion could have been further exacerbated by Tuesday’s events.
Hallett says single brick parapets above garage doors, which are popular for basketball ring installations, are one of the most vulnerable and dangerous parts of the home. Other dangerous areas which should be checked include leaning walls or brick fences which previously had cracks and any decks and elevated water tanks on old timber stands.
“Cracks in walls and ceilings, especially in older homes where there is considerable weight in lathe and plaster ceilings, should be treated with caution and people should get professional help to assess their homes by an appropriately qualified structural engineer or architect,” he says. “Safety should be the most important consideration in all instances.”
Tuesday’s earthquake, which occurred at around 8:53 pm local time and had an epicentre near Moe around 120 kilometres south-east of Melbourne, was felt as far away as Wodonga on the state’s border and the city of Ballarat west of Melbourne.
Measuring 5.3 on the Richter Scale, the earthquake equaled the largest ever recorded in the state.