Newcastle Earthquake, 1989

On 28th of December in 1989, a killer earthquake hit Newcastle, Australia’s sixth largest city without a warning. It took place at 10:27am and the serious earthquake reached a magnitude o f 5.6 on the Richter scale. The shock waves were felt up to 500 kilometres, across more th an one quarter of New South Wales. To get a feel of the extent of the severity of the earthquake, Sydney, which was 160 kilometres to the south of Newcastle, reported house wall cracks and computer screen trembling in city skyscrapers.

This earthquake resulted in the death of thirteen people and 150 others, severely injured. Of the fatalities, nine people were found crushed when a large section of Newcastle Worker’s Club collapsed under the pressure of the earthquake. Three others were discovered buried under rubble and debris from collapsed shorefronts.

A total of 70,000 odd buildings in the region suffered in som e form of damage. These included approximately 35,000 homes and 3000 other buildings moderately to gravely damaged. There were also damages to 147 schools caused by this earthquake. Of these, 42 suffered structural damage and were evaluated to be unfit for use.

The earthquake caused irreparable damage to storefronts and other commercial buildings. Insured losses were reported to be approximately $1,124 million. It was found that the estimated total cost of damage resulting from the earthquake reached almost $1.5 billion.

The Newcastle earthquake was the first earthquake since European settlement that caused fatalities. Australia was traditionally considered of low seismic risk before this event, however the seriousness of this earthquake proved this opinion wrong. As a result of the earthquake, it became a requirement by government regulation that all buildings in Australia (including homes) are to be constructed to resist earthquakes.

Due to the injuries and damages caused, immense strength from the people of the region was needed to overcome all repercussions of the Newcastle Earthquake.