Earthquake shocks Victoria Harbour!


By Stella Barber - Victoria Harbour resident

Just when Melburnians wondered what could possibly be next; after more than 250 days in lockdown, transport suspended to avert protests, the construction industry closing down, police confronting people for exercising in groups, and “COVID fatigue” being diagnosed as a genuine health issue, we are then hit with an earthquake of close to magnitude six. 

Despite being not only local news, it is important to record the massive earthquake that struck Victoria Harbour and along with it, the rest of Victoria, from 9.15am on September 22, 2021.

This was the largest earthquake ever to be felt in Victoria since records were kept, post European settlement. The earthquake measured a magnitude 5.9 in Mansfield which was the quake’s epicentre and was felt throughout the entire state. The initial quake was followed by six aftershocks, with magnitudes of 3.5, 4.1, 2.5, 3.1, 2.4 and 2.9. The initial quake was felt 190 kilometres away from the epicentre, in Melbourne as well as in regional Victoria, Sydney, regional New South Wales, the ACT, Adelaide and Launceston in Tasmania.

Minor building damage was reported across the state, including in the Melbourne suburbs of Kensington, Ascot Vale, Parkdale, Prahran, Balwyn, Elsternwick, Northcote and West Melbourne. Many would have seen the footage of the damage to a heritage building in Chapel St, South Yarra. Thankfully no lives were lost, and no injuries sustained. There were a few spilled cups of tea and some temporary power outages, but they were quickly resolved. 

At our apartment in Victoria Harbour, the building shook and the balcony rattled as we wondered what was happening. Social media confirmed we were experiencing an earthquake. Apartment and office buildings in Victoria Harbour were quickly evacuated, as they were elsewhere in Docklands and in the CBD. People left buildings in a hurry, some gathering up their beloved pets. We choose to leave our cats, Chloe and Gerald to hide under the beds, as they had never been outside, and we felt it would have been more traumatic for them to be in crowds of people outside. 

It was ironic that amid lockdown six, with strict social distancing laws in place, suddenly crowds of people were forced to gather in close proximity in Buluk Park or the other evacuation points around Docklands. My son and I chatted to several people cuddling their cats. One lady holding a very large and very frightened kitty said her cat suffered from separation anxiety so she simply could not leave him alone in her apartment. Other cats were being carried in back packs or in the arms of their protective owners. Likewise, there were so many dogs, happily wagging their tails at all the excitement, it looked like we were awaiting judging at a dog show.

As we know, what with COVID and apartment living, many Docklanders don’t get dressed before noon (unless they have a Zoom meeting) so many of those gathering in the park were in pyjamas and dressing gowns. Others sported warm weather gear and it was quite chilly while waiting to be allowed back into homes. 

I spoke to a few Victoria Harbour residents about their experience of the earthquake. One told me, “I thought the building might come down”. Another said, “I was really concerned it might have been a bomb.” Others were concerned seeing senior and infirm people struggle down stairwells and this has led to many apartment building managers assessing evacuation protocols. But then there were those that seemed not to have noticed the tremors, commenting “a chair fell over, and I just thought it was my cat being particularly playful,” and “I think a towel fell off the towel rack!”

Whatever challenges confront us, coffee is always the solution! For the first time, in a very long time, it was wonderful to see that all the local coffee shops were doing a roaring trade. My favourite, Charlie Bit Me, (838 Collins St, facing the park), could hardly keep up with the orders. The barista there said, “I wish I had a faster machine,” and one of the customers in the queue with me noted, “I doubt any coffee shop in Docklands has ever been this busy prior to 10am!” It was also good to see queues at Bambino, Saluministi, Billy Barista, Oliver Browns, and the newly opened East West Coffee Roasters at Buckley Walk. Each of these excellent venues had people waiting patiently and soon warming their hands on their lattes and chais. The family of magpies in the Docklands Community Garden must have wondered where all the people had suddenly come from. And the usually empty space was crowded with Docklanders drinking coffee and speculating about possible further quakes.

There is an end in sight to the lockdown, so let’s continue to support these coffee shops and other retailers as life returns to Docklands. A quick shout out to the newly opened Victoria Harbour artisan wood-fired Pizzeria, San Marzano. This new venue, a few steps up from the post office at 831D Bourke St, offers take away and pick up with a varied menu including gluten free and vegan options. The pizzas are made using a home-made sourdough starter which ferments for 48 hours, and features fresh, seasonal, and sustainable produce. 

I am hopeful that with the easing of restrictions towards the end of this month, trust returns to Docklands and that people smile a little more and are not too quick to judge those without masks – they may suffer from asthma or have some other health complaint that prevents them wearing a mask. We are a small community, but a close-knit community. So, let’s all keep a look out for our neighbours and help where we can. 2021 will soon draw to a close and we can put lockdowns – and earthquakes – behind us. And let’s hope this holiday season that the only surprises we experience are in gifts given and received, connections remade with regional and interstate family and friends finally being able to visit our very beautiful Victoria Harbour •

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