NEWCASTLE, Australia — Rescuers crawled through the rubble of a workers' club today seeking victims of Australia's first fatal earthquake, which killed nine people, injured 107 and devastated sections of the nation's sixth largest city.
State police headquarters in Sydney, 75 miles south of Newcastle, revised the death toll in Thursday's quake from 11 to nine, but said more people may be trapped in the wreckage of the Newcastle Workers' Club.
A preliminary estimate put overall damage from the quake at $1 billion.
The army was sent in to stop looting.
The temblor toppled buildings, crumbled walls, damaged pipes and knocked out power.
From Texas, where he was vacationing, President Bush sent a message of condolence to Prime Minister Bob Hawke.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II also sent condolences.
Two floors of the workers' club collapsed into the parking basement, where 24 cars lay under broken concrete slabs, police said. Six bodies were taken from the club. Most were elderly women who met Thursdays to play bingo after getting their pension checks, a police officer said.
Three other victims were killed by falling debris and shop awnings when the quake, with a magnitude of 5.5, struck at 10:28 a.m.
Club employee Howard Gibson, 44, was in a second-floor auditorium when the temblor started.
"It was the most horrifying experience," he said. "The whole place shook so violently you could hardly stand up. The chandeliers started to drop and the balcony collapsed as I ran out, catching me by the legs and the chest.
"At that point it stopped and I was lucky to have the strength to pull myself clear."
Cave expert David Rothbury said he climbed into the rubble but found no bodies.
"There are some spaces big enough to get into, but there was no one there," he said. "We asked for the machines to be quiet so we could hear any cries for help, but we didn't hear anything."
Elsewhere in this industrial city of 500,000, residents were surveying the damage and waiting for the predicted aftershocks.
Police cordoned off the debris-littered central business district until high-rise office buildings could be inspected for damage.
Army Maj. Brian Jordon said that up to 150 buildings, including homes, were so badly damaged they may have to be demolished. He heads a 200-member unit ordered to the city by Hawke to help police.
The City Council met in emergency session today to gauge the damage and plan relief programs for homeless residents.
Water and telephone services were gradually being restored, a council officer said.
Scientists at Canberra-based Australian Seismological Center said the quake was the first to claim lives in Australia.
Australia's biggest recorded earthquake was at Meeberrie, in remote, sparsely populated western Australia in 1941 and was a magnitude 7.7.
Thursday's quake was felt throughout New South Wales state--including Sydney, where it struck like a sharp jolt--and police said it was the first in the nation to hit a heavily populated area.
"Earthquakes are very rare in that area," said Waverly Person of the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo.
The epicenter was eight miles west of suburban Hamilton, at a depth of slightly more than six miles. The temblor lasted 29 seconds.
Newcastle is the most populous city in New South Wales after Sydney.
The army was called in to patrol streets after police spokesman Simon Latimer said there were reports of looting in the business district.