Deluge of calls

THE Victorian State Emergency Service received a deluge of phone calls from all over the state after an earthquake rocked the Latrobe Valley on Tuesday night.

The quake, believed to be the strongest recorded earthquake in this part of the state since 1969, had its epicentre in Narracan.

The SES said it received more than 850 calls in the first hour after the quake hit across the state, with 420 calls in the first 15 minutes.

It attended 46 requests statewide for assistance as a result of the quake, of which 30 were related to building damage.

SES said 19 of the calls related to building damage were in Gippsland, with 11 in Moe.

“There was no significant property damage, except for a report of a garage collapsing in Newborough,” a spokesperson said.

“SES urges people during earthquakes not to call to report that a quake has occurred,” SES said in a media statement, adding the calls could clog emergency lines.

“People should call 132 500 for an earthquake related emergency or 000 for a life-threatening emergency.”

Moe SES volunteer and media liaison Ray Curran said it was the first time he had worked with an earthquake, and the worst damage he had witnessed was at Moe Woolworths.

“We got there about 9.30pm; when you go in as a customer it’s obviously nice and clean, but going in last night after the call was like another world,” Mr Curran said.

“There was stuff on the floor and parts of the false ceiling hanging down; it was a shock to see it happen in our own town.”

Mr Curran said at the time of the quake, about 8.53pm, half a dozen SES volunteers were in training.

“We stopped what we were doing in time for the pagers to go off, and they were ringing all night,” he told The Express, having just returned from a 14-hour shift yesterday morning.

“All night, we attended houses with cracks in the walls; we letter-boxed every shop in the Moe, Newborough and Trafalgar area to check everything was safe before they let customers in,” he said.

Mr Curran said the SES was also expected to be kept busy overnight, with a severe weather warning for damaging winds in the region. Yesterday afternoon, the SES sectioned off part of the Manny’s Market, Morwell carpark after movement was detected in the adjoining brick wall.

Latrobe City Council engineers were assessing the situation, but could not respond by time of publication.

Meanwhile, a Country Fire Authority spokesperson said they had not attended any earthquake-related incidents in the Gippsland area.