Sunday 18 August 2019

'I tried to convince my partner it was the washing machine' - Irish in Australia react to 6.6 magnitude earthquake

An earthquake of magnitude 6.6 struck west of Australia's beach resort of Broome
Photo: Geoscience Australia
An earthquake of magnitude 6.6 struck west of Australia's beach resort of Broome Photo: Geoscience Australia

Evie Kearney

The Irish community in Western Australia have described a massive earthquake as feeling like a "a big tremble" with one woman initially convinced it was the washing machine.

A 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck off the north coast of Western Australia on Sunday afternoon - the largest earthquake ever recorded in the area and locals are reporting it lasted for up to one minute.

Shane Burke, originally from Castlemaine in Kerry, said he was standing in his kitchen when he felt the ground begin to "wobble" underneath him.

"I walked out with my four year old and saw both cars in the carport swaying from side to side like a tennis ball on the top of a wave," he told Independent.ie.

"It honestly felt like a massive train going by at 100mph. The ground felt like we were standing on a small boat side on from the waves.

"Afterwards my wife and I felt light headed and described the feeling as smoking a cigarette for the first time, light headed and weak," he added.

Meath native Niamh Herd, who has been living in the city of Karratha, Western Australia for over two years, was sitting on the couch with her eight-week-old son when they "felt a big tremble" in the house.

"Our living room windows were shaking and the fly screen door," she said.

"Both my partner and I looked at each other trying to figure it out. I tried to convince him it was the washing machine. It was only about thirty or forty seconds but it felt longer."

Wexford man Mickey Kelly lives near Cable Beach, and said that he and his friends rushed out to the streets when the earth began to tremble.

"There were children crying and people panicking. It lasted about a minute," he said.

Mr Kelly also said the first thing he did after the quake was check for tsunami warnings as his home is near the Indian Ocean.

According to the Australian government's Bureau of Meteorology, Australia is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes resulting in tsunamis, and have established a "world-class" tsunami warning system.

"The impact of a tsunami hitting vulnerable low-lying areas of the Australian coast could be significant," the Bureau warns. 

"As a direct result of the tsunami generated off the coast of Indonesia on 26 December 2004, the Australian Government identified the need to be able to warn the Australian population of such phenomena, with the aim of minimising the loss of life and the economic impact on its population."

No tsunami warning was issued following Sunday's earthquake and there have been no immediate reports of serious injury or damages.

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