Several historic buildings sustained damage when the quake hit.Buildings in Kalgoorlie-Boulder were damaged, Australia’s largest open-cut mine – the Super Pit – has been evacuated and a teenage receptionist was buried in rubble after an earthquake measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale hit this morning.
Geoscience Australia spokesman Chris Thompson said the quake hit at 8.17am, about two kilometres south-west of Kalgoorlie, in the Boulder area.
Mr Thompson said the 5.0 quake was the largest ever recorded in the Goldfields region.
“This is, by quite some way, the largest earthquake recorded since consistent records commenced in the early 1900s,” he said.
“This is a very large earthquake for a populated area in Australia.”
By comparison, the 1989 quake that killed 13 people in the NSW steel town of Newcastle measured 5.6.
Bricks litter the street after the quake hit.
The 1968 quake that destroyed the WA Wheatbelt town of Meckering measured 6.9.
Australia’s largest ever documented quake, which measured 7.2, struck in 1941 at Meeberrie, north-east of the WA holiday town of Kalbarri.
The Fire and Emergency Services Authority said two people from Boulder were treated for minor injuries at Kalgoorlie Hospital.
One of the injured two, a 19-year-old receptionist at Goldfields Physiotherapy Services, was knocked unconscious after the reception roof collapsed.
Physiotherapist Gavin Corica and client Dominic Power rushed to the young woman’s help after the men had sought refuge under a doorway in the century-old building.
“It sounded like a bulldozer was going through the front of the building,” Mr Corica said.
“The whole front reception caved in and it was pitch black. It was very hard to see anything because there was so much dust.”
Mr Corica said the receptionist had tried to seek refuge beneath her desk, but only partially succeeded before being buried in rubble.
“We couldn’t see what we were doing for at least a minute,” he said.
“She took two minutes to respond.
“She was certainly knocked out – she was concussed when we pulled her out.”
Mr Corica said the receptionist had been discharged from Kalgoorlie Hospital without serious injury.
“We were lucky that there were no patients in the waiting area or they would have been killed,” he said.
A FESA spokeswoman said Goldfields locals should expect aftershocks and beware of falling debris.
Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes said all mines in the area – including the massive Super Pit, Australia’s biggest open-cut mine – had been evacuated and closed pending a geological assessment.
No injuries had been reported on any mines, and all workers had been accounted for.
Broken windows at the local ABC radio station were reported, and a balcony collapsed at Boulder’s Golden Eagle Hotel.
Boulder Primary School received severe structural damage, including a ceiling collapse.
Students and teachers were evacuated to a safer part of the school but FESA said parents were welcome to collect their children and take them home.
Kalgoorlie Hospital patients and staff were evacuated for about half an hour after damage was sustained to walls.
Other schools including O’Connor Primary, North Kalgoorlie Primary, Kalgoorlie Primary and Kalgoorlie School of the Air received minor damage. FESA said students at those schools were unaffected and the schools remain open.
FESA confirmed the historic Rock Hotel was also among “five or six” older inns to have received damage in Boulder’s Burt and Lane streets.
Long-serving Kalgoorlie-Boulder mayor Ron Yuryevich, who has lived in the Goldfields all his life, said the quake was the worst he had experienced.
Mr Yuryevich confirmed Boulder’s Recreation Hotel and the Golden Eagle Hotel had suffered damage to their facades.
He said the “10-15 second” quake rocked the council’s administrative offices, causing some staff to evacuate and some to suffer shock.
“I was talking to the CEO at the council and it shook the hell out of that building and it caused great concern,” Mr Yurevich said.
Recreation Hotel cook Alli Brand said she was in the kitchen making breakfast for a patron in the front bar when the earthquake hit.
“The whole ground just shook,” she said.
“The quake just hit and the ground was like waves – not huge waves, but little ones.
“I was really frightened and thought ‘Oh no, we’re going to go under’.”
Ms Brand said that brick walls on the top floor of the century-old building crumbled.
“The top part of the hotel moved,” she said.
“It felt like the whole hotel was going to collapse.
“It was really loud and thunderous.”
Ms Brand said the hotel was evacuated, and there were no injuries.
Police have closed Burt, Moran, Piesse, Lionel, Lane and Hamilton streets to traffic.