Police remove duo from stack danger zone

A police horseback patrol in the streets of Port Kembla. Picture: GREG TOTMAN
A police horseback patrol in the streets of Port Kembla. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Police negotiators were needed to remove two residents who were ‘‘unaware of their obligations’’ in the lead-up to the Port Kembla Stack demolition on Thursday.

Superintendent Kyle Stewart said it took a ‘‘matter of minutes’’ to convince the pair to leave their home, which was inside the exclusion zone.

‘‘We had a couple of people who were unclear in terms of what their obligations were around the need to evacuate and why the evacuation was in place,’’ Supt Stewart said. 

‘‘We brought in some negotiators who met with them and in a matter of minutes, those people had decided to remove themselves from the evacuation zone.’’

Meantime, Lake Illawarra police have charged a 51-year-old Port Kembla man with entering enclosed lands after he jumped the fence and entered the Port Kembla stack about 2.45am yesterday.

He was approached by security staff and allegedly told them: ‘‘I’m sleeping in the bush and watching the stack come down, I know there’s explosives on site.’’  

Police were called and arrested the man a short time later.   

Supt Stewart said otherwise, the evacuation had been a success.

Aerial view after the stack demolition. Picture: STEVE ADAMS

‘‘It was an incredibly benign event for us,’’ he said.

‘‘The community were unbelievable co-operative – I couldn’t have asked for more from them.’’

More than 300 onlookers gathered at the corner of Foreshore and Old Port roads, Port Kembla, to get a close view of the demolition.

Many cheered, while others screamed as the 10,600-tonne chimney crumbled just after 11.15am.

Port Kembla Copper general manager Ian Wilson said initial testing of the dust from the demolition had confirmed no asbestos fibres were present.

‘‘Our experts have concluded any short-term exposure to the dust does not pose any form of a health risk,’’ he said.

‘‘PKC will be going further through the community to see whether there is any clean-up activities [however] we think this is unlikely at this stage.’’

Mr Wilson said the dust cloud affected an estimated 15 homes.

‘‘We’ll be going through the exposed area and counting and determining exactly which homes,’’ he said.

So far, testing of the site has been limited to internal Port Kembla Copper investigations. 

Mr Wilson said it was possible further testing might be required to reassure the community.

‘‘To do some extra asbestos tests and give that extra level of comfort, we’ll probably do anyway,’’ he said. 

The rubble, which all fell inside a 250-metre long wedge shaped demolition zone, is expected to be used as internal fill.

The exclusion zone was reopened about 3.30pm.


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