Call for Government inquiry to identify the reasons behind Hazelwood coal mine fire

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Image credit: flickr User: firesafeaust

Deputy Premier Peter Ryan has called for a Government inquiry to unravel the causes and consequences of the Hazelwood coal mine fire disaster, which caused Morwell residents to flee the town in fear and panic.

Image credit: flickr User: firesafeaust
Image credit: flickr User: firesafeaust

‘‘We need to get to the bottom of why it has developed in the first place and all the contributing factors to it and we need to learn from this,’’ he said in Morwell on Thursday afternoon.

‘‘I have no doubt inquiries will be conducted in great detail by respective agencies to make sure we get to the bottom of all of this.’’

Mr Ryan has also urged Victorians to offer their holiday homes in Gippsland as refuges for Morwell residents in search of respite.

‘‘If you can give people a break and an opportunity to get out of town for a couple of days as the chief health officer [Rosemary Lester] is saying, that would be a great thing,’’ he told 3AW Breakfast.

According to the article on The Edge, the blanket of smoke and ash that has covered Morwell for more than two weeks has raised serious respiratory and cardiac health concerns for the town’s 13,000 residents.

Victorian health authorities said that this was a “unique event” which had no standard protocol to act upon. Therefore, the authorities are seeking international expert advice about the impact of long-term exposure to the carbon monoxide pollution coming out of from the coal mine.

‘‘One of the things we’re dealing with [is] smoke burning in a coal mine directly adjacent to the community. It is a relatively unique situation … not a straightforward situation,’’ Dr Lester said.

She said that the health authorities were awaiting advice before deciding whether to call for evacuation, but urged people to minimize their exposure to the fumes and leave town for respite whenever possible.

‘‘We won’t hesitate to escalate our message if we think that’s necessary.’’

According to the Country Fire Authority deputy controller John Haynes, 150 fire-fighters were battling the blaze at the coal mine every day. He said they were all under a health-monitoring regime, which included two-hour rotations and wearing carbon monoxide monitors.

‘‘If they have 5 per cent carbon monoxide, they’re off the site for 24 hours, if it’s 8 per cent, then it’s 48 hours,’’ he said.

‘‘If they’re over the limit we send them to hospital to get checked out.”