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Vic escapes record quake with minor damage

Victoria has been rocked by the largest earthquake in its recorded history, but authorities say the state was lucky to escape with no reported injuries and only minor damage.

The magnitude 5.9 quake hit about 9.15am on Wednesday and was centred between Mansfield and Rawson in the state's northeast, according to Geoscience Australia.

The 10km deep earthquake was felt across Melbourne and as far away as Canberra, Sydney and Adelaide.

Six aftershocks have since been registered between 2.4 and 4.1 on the Richter scale, and further tremors are expected in coming days and possibly months.

There have been more than 100 calls for assistance, with 55 of those in metropolitan Melbourne. Most were for minor structural damage to chimneys, facades and older buildings.

State Emergency Service chief officer Tim Wiebusch says it was "fortunate" the epicentre of the quake happened in a largely unpopulated part of regional Victoria.

"If that had occurred in one of our more urban and populated areas, we could be seeing quite a different result," he told reporters.

No major structural issues have been found after checks of rail lines, roads and dams.

Some building damage has emerged in metropolitan Melbourne and areas near Mansfield, with Beechworth hospital losing power and the cross at St Patrick's Church in Wangaratta falling down.

Among the buildings damaged is the facade of a Fitzroy building on Brunswick Road and the exterior of Betty's Burgers on Chapel Street in Windsor.

Mr Wiebusch said the time of day and lockdown restrictions may have prevented passers-by from being hit by the falling debris.

No one was inside the restaurant when the earthquake hit, managing director Troy McDonagh told AAP.

"We're out for months, it's structural, it looks like the top's come away, we need to get engineers in to assess it and then the works will need to be completed," he said.

Lynne Myers of High County Apparel in Mansfield, where the quake emanated, told AAP it was a frightening few minutes but there was no damage.

"Everything shook, the roof shook, boots fell off the shelf and I just ran outside," she said.

Craig Luelf from the All Seasons Mansfield resort said he was outside the town hospital when he felt "waves of the ground moving".

"At first, I thought the car was having a few issues and then realised all of a sudden that everything was moving," he told AAP.

"My father's neighbour is at the top of a hill and he could see the waves of the ground moving up the hill."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is currently in Washington DC, said he had spoken by text with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews following the earthquake.

"It can be a very, very disturbing event for an earthquake of this nature," he told reporters.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has met with Mr Morrison in the US, spent time as a teaching assistant at Timbertop near Mansfield in 1983.

"I was very sorry to hear you had an earthquake, in Mansfield, which I know well. I remember I used to go to a pub at a place called Merrijig which is near Mansfield," Mr Johnson told Mr Morrison, according to The Daily Telegraph.

Any federal response to the emergency will be handled by acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.

The earthquake was originally recorded as a magnitude 6 but was later revised 5.8, then 5.9 on the Richter scale.

© AAP 2021