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Magnitude 5.8 earthquake shakes far north Queensland

Some of far north Queensland’s most popular tourist destinations have been shaken by a large magnitude 5.8 earthquake, followed by a series of smaller aftershocks.

The magnitude 5.8 earthquake, which occurred approximately 70km offshore from Bowen, Queensland at 2:30pm, was felt widely across far north Queensland and as far south as the Sunshine Coast. A series of magnitude 3 aftershocks in the same region occurred in the following hours.

Shortly after the earthquakes the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre operated by Geoscience Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology issued a nil tsunami threat for Australia.

Geoscience Australia received more than 1000 felt reports in the hours following the earthquake.

This afternoon’s earthquakes were in very similar locations to the series of earthquakes that occured west of Bowen in 2011, including a magnitude 5.3 event on 11 April 2011.

Geoscience Australia senior duty seismologist Dr Jonathan Bathgate said Australia experiences on average two magnitude 5 events per year. Recently things have been busier than usual, with nine magnitude 5 events since February 2015, including five in Queensland.

“The magnitude 5.8 earthquake is the second strongest earthquake in recorded history in Queensland, behind a magnitude 6.0 event that occurred in 1918.”

“The earthquakes occur because the Australian plate is moving northward at approximately seven centimetres per year, colliding with the Pacific plate, causing stress to build up across Australia, which is released periodically by earthquakes,” Dr Bathgate said.

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