Australian Quake Unlikely to Reach Major Losses

Chris Westfall
Chris Westfall

A 5.2 magnitude earthquake that struck near Victoria, Australia will not reach major losses for insurers, according to local authorities and catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide.

“Most reports are for superficial damage only, and this may fall below the excess amount,” according to a statement from the Insurance Council of Australia.

The quake hit Australia on Tuesday and the country’s earthquake monitor — Geoscience Australia — measured it at magnitude of 5.3 which was epicentered near Australia’s southeast coast. The quake struck approximately 10 km to the closest population center, Moe, and at a depth of 9.9 km.

The quake could be felt by people 252 km away and there was a possibility of damage within a 20 km radius, Geoscience Australia said.

“Australia is in a stable continental region, thus damaging earthquakes there are relatively rare,” said Dr. Bingming Shen-Tu, senior principal scientist at AIR Worldwide in a statement. “When they do occur, however, ground motion is typically felt over a large area. Although Australia exhibits comparatively low seismic activity, earthquakes have been recorded in almost all regions of the country. Seismicity in eastern Australia, where today’s earthquake occurred, is relatively low as compared to  western and northwestern Australia.”
The vulnerability of Australian buildings varies across regions due to building code, construction and material differences, AIR added.

“Australia’s commercial building stock is dominated by masonry construction, while residential construction is a mix of wood frame and masonry. Australia has a number of residential construction types that are unique to the country, including cavity double-brick masonry, which is extremely vulnerable to ground shaking,” the AIR statement said.

The most damaging earthquake in Australian history was the 1989 Newcastle earthquake. That event killed 13 people, damaging 60,000 buildings and causing $4 billion in economic damage and $1 billion in insured losses.

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