Meck­er­ing 50 years after the big shake

Countryman - - NEWS - Kent Acott More event in­for­ma­tion is avail­able at https://meck­er­ing50yr­

Just like man walk­ing on the Moon or the as­sas­si­na­tion of US pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy, many West Aus­tralians re­mem­ber where they were when the 1968 Meck­er­ing earth­quake hit.

It was one of Aus­tralia’s big­gest.

The tremor from that 6.9mea­sured quake on Oc­to­ber 14 could be felt up to 700km away from the tiny Wheat­belt town.

Its main fo­cus was 7km deep, with a force equiv­a­lent to 10 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs.

In Perth, crock­ery and food tins fell from shelves. Cracks ap­peared on roads and up walls. Even the cross from the top of a city church crashed to the foot­path. But it was noth­ing com­pared with the destruc­tion in Meck­er­ing, 130km to the east.

Most build­ings were ei­ther de­stroyed or badly dam­aged. Mirac­u­lously, no one was killed or se­ri­ously in­jured. It would have been far worse if the quake had hit at night or it had not been a pub­lic hol­i­day.

Great Eastern High­way, the transcon­ti­nen­tal rail­way, the Eastern Gold­fields wa­ter pipe­line and tele­phone lines were dam­aged. Forty-five fam­i­lies left town, never to re­turn.

One man who was driv­ing on the high­way at the time said the road “just rose up in front of me”.

With the ho­tel de­stroyed, lo­cal pub­li­can Gor­don Ber­ry­man shifted the beer and equip­ment over the road to a petrol sta­tion to quench the thirst of lo­cals.

The makeshift lo­ca­tion be­came known as the Quake Arms Ho­tel, the Rock‘n’Roll Pub or Shake-Inn.

To com­mem­o­rate Sun­day’s 50th an­niver­sary of the earth­quake, events, ac­tiv­i­ties and en­ter­tain­ment have been planned. Through­out the day, vis­i­tors can take a site tour to the fault line and earth­quake ru­ins, in­clud­ing the rub­ble of Gra­ham and Alice Snooke’s for­mer home. They will also hear first­hand ac­counts of the earth­quake from lo­cal res­i­dents.

“Our newly re­vamped earth­quake walk trail, just a short walk from the town cen­tre, will be open to vis­i­tors all day,” event co-or­di­na­tor Rebekah Burges said.

“And at pre­cisely 10.59am, we will have a mo­ment of re­flec­tion to recog­nise the sig­nif­i­cance of the earth­quake that for ever changed the shape of the Meck­er­ing town­scape and im­pacted on so many lives.”

The day will also in­clude a free Scitech ex­hi­bi­tion and science shows.

A Tran­swa coach will take vis­i­tors from Perth to Meck­er­ing, leav­ing East Perth at 7.30am and ar­riv­ing back at 7.45pm.

Pic­ture: Sharon Smith

Meck­er­ing cou­ple Alice and Gra­ham Snooke at the ru­ins of their house.

Pic­ture: Richie Hann

Matt Bonser sur­veys the dam­age.

Buck­led rail­way line.

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