A long-haul truck filled with Ammonia exploded near Charleville in Queensland’s south-west. The explosion was so intense, the site is still too unsafe for authorities to venture close.
A two-kilometer exclusion zone remains in place at the scene of the blast, which occurred after a truck carting more than 50 Tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate crashed and rolled about 10:00 p.m. (AEST) on Friday. Eight men, including a police officer and four fire-fighters, were injured in the blast. The local police stated that the blast was so powerful that it annihilated the truck, decimated two fire-fighting vehicles and destroyed two nearby bridges. The explosion even blew a large hole in the busy Mitchell Highway.
The injured also include two motorists who stopped to help the victims. The truck driver has miraculously survived the blast, but remains in a critical condition with serious burns and head injuries in the Royal Brisbane Hospital, reported ABC News. Two rescue workers have been admitted to the Toowoomba hospital with serious internal bruising and damage to their eardrums.
Explaining the criticality of the blast, Peter Garske, QLD Trucking Association said,
“I have been involved in this industry for 20 years now and to my knowledge an incident of this type and this size has not occurred anywhere in this state, and to the best of my knowledge, Australia, in that 20 years.”
Shockwaves from the blast were felt by residents in nearby towns and it is nothing short of a miracle that no one died, said local fire chief, reported Queensland Country Life. Tom Dawson, Assistant Fire Commissioner for the south-west region, said a team of experts gathered in Charleville this morning to determine the best way to stabilize the blast area,
“We still actually believe we’ve got a little pocket of ammonium nitrate burning, so that in itself, with the fumes that’ll come from that burning process, still indicates we’ve got an unstable situation. It’s going to be a very scientific call to say it is now stable, then we’ll go about it very guardedly to go closer to determine the degree of safety. We now believe a lot of the product is actually buried under earth.”
Taking no chances, a huge 600 kilometer detour is currently in effect. It is hoped that such an incident will bring about revisions to the safety regulations concerning transport of hazardous and highly inflammable materials.
[Image Credit | Queensland Police Service, Fire and Rescue Service]