Newcastle Earthquake

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The aim of this report is to describe the Newcastle earthquake and identify its social, physical and economic effects on the community. The event in detail, major effects, how the event was caused, the effects on the communities property, people, infrastructure and economy, will all be addressed in this report. Also the long term planning implications, preventative measures, preparedness, response implications, and well as recovery implications will covered and described.

The objectives of this report on the Newcastle Earthquake are as follows: 1.To define the terms emergency, and show what makes this event an emergency, 2.To identify in detail the nature of the event, in terms of how and why this event occurred, 3.To identify and discus who and what were affected by this event, 4.To identify the long term implications of this emergency, including details of preventative and preparedness implications, as well as response and recovery implications.



The event was Australia’s most damaging earthquake which hit Newcastle city.


The earthquake struck Newcastle city at 10.28am on the 28th December 1989. The epicentre of the earthquake was 15kms west south west of Newcastle’s CBD, and registered at 5.6 on the Richter scale. The initial earthquake only lasted 5 to 6 seconds, but two after shocks followed. (Geoscience Australia 2004) The first aftershock was around ten minutes later but was not felt by many Novocastrians. The second was felt the day after at 7:08am the 29th December, measuring 2.1 on the Richter scale (Newcastle Library n.d). This after shock was strongly felt, especially in the suburb of Hamilton.

The city is located on the east coast of New South Wales Australia, with a population of around 300 000 people (Geoscience Australia 2004). It was settled early in the 19th century, initially for the mining and exportation of coal. Most of Newcastle’s business is based around this coal extraction. The CBD is located between the beach on the east and the busy port on the north. Many of the original buildings are still operating in the CBD (Geoscience Australia 2004). This combination contributed to the damaged caused.


The earthquake was not a large compared to earthquakes that other countries have experienced, but extensive damage and fatalities were caused. There was a total of 13 deaths caused by the earthquake and another 162 people where hospitalised. Over 50 000 buildings where damaged, both homes and commercial properties (Newcastle Library n.d).

In a wider perspective, the shaking effects were felt from Albury, Cooma and Bermagui in the south, Temora and Narromine in the west, to Coonabarabran, Armidale and Coffs Harbour, which are 550 kilometres north of Newcastle. Damage was recorded from Liverpool 138 kilometres south, Scone 145 kilometres west, and Gladstone 320 kilometres north (Australian Government 2003).

The further effects that were felt by this earthquake will be explained in detail further down in the report.


An emergency from an emergency services perspective
A serious disruption to community life which threatens or causes death or injury in that community and/or damage to property which is beyond the day-today capacity of the prescribed statutory authorities and which requires special mobilisation and organisation of resources other than those normally available to those authorities.(csu)

Emergency definition from the New South Wales Disaster Plan
An emergency due to the actual or imminent occurrence (such as fire, flood, storm, earthquake, explosion, accident, epidemic or warlike action) which: (a)endangers, or threatens to endanger, the safety or health of persons or animals in the Sate; or (b)destroys or damages, or threatens to destroy or...
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