21 May 2016

Quake strikes Australian outback

10:15 am on 21 May 2016

A magnitude 5.9 earthquake has struck in Australia's Northern Territory about 460km southwest of Alice Springs.

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Photo: 123rf

The United States Geological Survey said the quake, unusually powerful for Australia, was initially recorded at a magnitude of 6.2. It was 10km deep and struck just before 4am (local time).

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The desert area southwest of Alice Springs and the world-famous Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is sparsely populated with the nearest indigenous community settlements over 100km away from the earthquake's epicentre.

Geoscience Australia said it could have been felt as far as 507km from its epicentre, although any damage would be limited to a 40km radius.

"It occurred in the middle of the desert and as far as we can tell it was far from any community and there have been no reports of injuries or damage," Northern Territory police spokeswoman Angela Stringer said.

"From a geological perspective, it's pretty spectacular but we don't see it as anything more than that at this time."

The strongest recorded quake to hit Australia was a magnitude 6.6 jolt, which hit the small mining town of Tennant Creek, in the Northern Territory, in January 1988, according to Geoscience Australia.

A year later a magnitude 5.6 quake killed 13 people in Newcastle, New South Wales. Nine of them died when the Newcastle Workers Club collapsed. A further 160 people were injured.