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Kiwis attuned to the wobbly world of earthquakes

Jenz Davidson


AS AN expat New Zealander, I've been through many quakes over the years. Some, such as the 6.4 magnitude quake on Sunday, May 13, 1990, (referred to as the Mother's Day quake), had aftershocks which lasted through the night, keeping people awake.

It was centred at Weber, near the North Island town of Dannevirke and although aftershocks were less intense than the actual quake, people worried it could be another "big one".

The thumping, jarring few seconds of a 5.2 magnitude quake, 200km off the Sunshine Coast at a depth of 50km, felt about 9.41am yesterday, went almost unnoticed by many in Gympie.

But this Kiwi was pretty sure that was exactly what it was.

Australia has had a few "big ones". The worst, causing 13 deaths, was in December 1989, at Newcastle. It was a 5.6 magnitude quake and shut down the Newcastle CBD for two weeks.

One of the most notorious New Zealand quakes was the 6.3 earthquake at Christchurch on February 22, 2011. It killed 185 people and injured several thousand, with falling buildings, collapsing hillsides and a shallow epicentre all contributing to the devastation.

It also bought a new word into my vocabulary - liquefaction - which was much more extensive than it had been in the September 2010 earthquake. Eastern sections of the city were built on a former swamp and shaking turned water-saturated layers of sand and silt beneath the surface into sludge that squirted upwards through cracks. Properties and streets were buried in thick layers of grey silt.

New Zealand may be the shaky isles but Australia can be a wobbly Great Southern Land too.

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