Charleville explosion means injury, disruption and cost


QTA head believes Mitchell Highway section will be out action for many weeks

Charleville explosion means injury, disruption and cost
Peter Garske says detour costs must be passed on to customers

 

The infrastructure damage wrought by the Charleville ammonium nitrate explosion promises months of disruption for transport companies that use the Mitchell Highway.

Queensland Transport Association (QTA) CEO Peter Garske believes any side track around the scene is unlikely to be suitable for heavy vehicles and multi-combinations, particularly if there is more rain.

Garske has been at pains to highlight increased costs a detour will entail that will have to be passed on to the customers of transport companies using the route.

"It will conceivably take months to rebuild" the road bridge, he believes.

He points out that an extra "600 or 700 kilometres is 600-700 litres of fuel and another seven, eight or nine hours for the driver.

"That’s all about fatigue and costs and wages. This won’t be just for a day or a week. I think it will be for many weeks."

Queensland Police have today handed responsibility for the site to officials from the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) and to the Department of Natural Resources and Mines’ Explosives Inspectorate.

Queensland transport minister Scott Emerson says his department is planning a 100 km detour between Charleville and Cunnamulla using the Charleville-Bollon Road.

A departmental spokesperson says timeframes for repairs "will be established once we are on site".

At present, TMR advises that for Type 1 Road Trains with two trailers, the following suggested route has been identified: Turn right from Bourke to Walgett then to Dirranbandi via the Castlereagh Highway, road trains can turn right from Bourke to Walgett then to Dirranbandi via the Castlereagh Highway, then to St George, left onto the Balonne Highway, then right to Mitchell via the Mitchell – St George Road then to Augathella (or Charleville).

For Type 2 Road Trains with three trailers: Type 2 and Type 1 road trains can travel from Bourke through to Cunnamulla, turn left towards Thargomindah, then right to Quilpie via the Thargomindah – Quilpie Road, then right to Charleville.

These are dirt road in sections.

A Natural Resources and Mines spokesperson says a joint multi-agency group is investigating to establish the cause of the vehicle accident plus the nature and cause of the subsequent explosion.

Now that the accident scene has been declared safe, explosives inspectors have begun their site investigation and are surveying the area, preparing a debris field map, verifying the crater size, taking samples of remnant ammonium nitrate and examining damage to road infrastructure.

A full investigation report into the explosion will be prepared for the Chief Inspector of Explosives and contain a series of findings and recommendations.

"In Queensland, Security Sensitive Ammonium Nitrate is strictly regulated for safety and security by the Explosives Inspectorate of the Department of Natural Resources and Mines through nationally-agreed protocols," the spokesperson says.

"Companies or persons who manufacture, transport, store, supply or use ammonium nitrate must be licensed through the Explosives Regulation 2003. Ammonium nitrate is an oxidising agent with a dangerous goods classification 5.1.

"Once licensed, the truck and transport company must comply with the national Australian Dangerous Goods Code which outlines the requirements for transport of dangerous goods by road and rail. 

"The transport of ammonium nitrate is also subject to strict security and safety provisions and routine inspections." 

Eight people including the Kalari truck driver were injured in the incident, with the driver reportedly in an induced coma at a Brisbane Hospital.

Kalari has expressed it sadness at the injuries to those involved and noted that it had halted the service until the situation became clearer.

The vehicle was travelling from central Queensland to South Australia.

Major ammonium nitrate explosions are rare in the state, with observers noting the last such was in 1972 at Taroom in central Queensland.

Three men died and a semi-trailer was destroyed on the Fitzroy Development Road in that incident.

TMR information can be found at www.131940.qld.gov.au or call 131940 for changing conditions and updates.

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