Government to help Kalgoorlie quake victims
An assistance package could be available for Kalgoorlie-Boulder residents affected by a 5.0-magnitude earthquake which struck the Goldfields city.
About a dozen buildings in the main street of Boulder were badly damaged in Tuesday morning's quake, which is the biggest recorded in the region.
Eyre MLA Graham Jacobs, whose office is in one of the worst affected streets, inspected the damage this afternoon.
Doctor Jacobs says there will be some assistance from the government, and it will work with the Fire and Emergency Services Authority to determine how much assistance is needed.
"Everywhere I look, there's significant cracks in buildings, there's some parapets that have collapsed, there are brick walls that have collapsed," he said.
"I think it's very obvious to anybody here today that the impact is rather severe on this area.
Hundreds of school children were evacuated from classrooms after the earthquake struck.
Geoscience Australia says the earthquake hit one to two kilometres south of the Kalgoorlie city centre in Boulder about 8:20am.
Ambulance officers have taken a man and a woman to hospital with minor injuries. They are both in a stable condition.
Residents are being warned to prepare for aftershocks, but Geoscience Australia's David Jepsen said the worst should be over.
"You can never rule out anything, but the general behaviour of earthquakes in Australia is that you would only have smaller aftershocks."
People who need help can call the SES on 132 500.
The Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) said the quake - the strongest ever recorded in the area - mainly affected Boulder and five or six hotels on Burt Street, including the Roc Hotel and the Golden Eagle, which have been damaged.
The balcony of the Golden Eagle hotel collapsed during the quake. Burt and Lane Streets in Boulder have been closed and FESA is asking people to avoid the area.
Kalgoorlie Mayor Ron Yuryevich told ABC local radio it was lucky no-one was killed in the quake, which he described as the most intense in the 57 years he has lived in the town.
"Facades have come off and fallen through verandahs and in fact the Golden Eagle Hotel [has] gone through the floor there onto the pavement," he said.
"At the Commercial Hotel, which is at the main intersection of Burt and Lane Street, it's only God willing that no-one got killed."
The Education Department said Boulder Primary School had extensive damage and several buildings had to be evacuated.
O'Connor Primary School and Kalgoorlie Primary School have some damage and are partly closed, with some buildings declared unusable. The Kalgoorlie School of the Air is closed.
Workers from Kalgoorlie's KCGM Super Pit have also been evacuated.
The Super Pit is the largest open cut mining pit in Australia and KCGM general manager Russell Cole said a full geotechnical assessment was underway.
"KCGM believes that this was a seismic event. Because of the location, it is beyond our systems to determine the exact nature and specifics of the event," he said in a statement.
"A regional triangulation will need to be undertaken by Geosciences Australia.
"All personnel are safe. Mt Charlotte underground crew have been brought to surface and will remain so until a full geotechnical assessment of the area has been conducted.
"Open pits have suspended operations and a full geotechnical assessment is underway. This could take several hours."
Assessing the damage
FESA and SES volunteers from Kalgoorlie are working in the area and locals are being asked to turn off their electricity, gas and water if possible.
David Jepsen, a senior seismologist with Geoscience Australia, told ABC Local Radio the earthquake was felt up to several hundred kilometres from where it struck.
"This is the largest earthquake that we've had in the region since we've recorded earthquakes here," he said.
"We can't rule out the effects of what the mining has done."
Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett said authorities were assessing the damage.
"We're just getting some information that it was quite a strong earthquake," he said.
"There's been some structural damage to some schools [and] they've been closed for the day just to check their safety. It's being dealt with.
"Western Australia can be prone to earthquakes and this is an example."
Residents from across the Goldfields city told ABC Local Radio they felt the earth shake and feared their homes would fall down around them.
"I sort of stopped brushing and looked at the kids and thought, I wonder what will go if the house starts falling down," one resident said.
Kambalda resident Bernadette said the floors and the walls shook and she ran to get her baby out of its cot as her husband leapt up from the couch so they could shelter beneath door frames.
Another local who was about 10 kilometres out of town said the earth shook for 10 to 15 seconds.
"I thought it was a mine blast but I knew the mine blast was at the wrong time," the resident said.
People in towns as far away as Coolgardie have reported feeling the tremor.
Some residents have described feeling several aftershocks.
Boulder resident Nikki told ABC News Online there had been dozens of aftershocks since the earthquake.
"I live in Boulder and I certainly felt it. I was just falling asleep after working a night shift and the house shaking woke me up," she said.
"I immediately heard sirens, probably responding to the damaged buildings on Burt St close to where I live.
"Soon after I felt two fairly strong aftershocks in quick succession. There have been dozens of smaller ones since."
John Wulf, a cleaner at the Kalgoorlie Hotel, told ABC News Online there had already been an aftershock.
"There's been one little aftershock and that was it. That was nothing like the major one," he said.
Mr Wulf said he got a huge fright from the first quake.
"I was inside and I took off outside very quickly," he said.
"I've been through earthquakes before but I haven't felt one like that before.
"I thought it was a blast from KCGM [mine], because that's what it felt like. It felt like it was right underneath. KCGM do a lot of blasting but I've never felt one like that before."
Mr Wulf said he was busy cleaning at the hotel, but now he would have to start all over again.
"There's a bit of debris here and there, nothing I can't fix," he said.
But Mr Wulf said he was yet to inspect the damage on the first floor of the hotel.
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