THREE earthquakes measuring more than seven on the Richter scale
below the Pacific Ocean off Vanuatu on Thursday have highlighted the lack of disaster planning in place for the vulnerable Queensland south-east corner.
Five years after the Boxing Day tsunami killed more than 200,000 people in south-east Asia, Queensland still does not have a coordinated plan to evacuate people from low lying, heavily populated coastal areas.
No government body contacted by the Sunshine Coast Daily could explain how residents would be informed, and evacuated in an orderly manner in the event of a clear and immediate threat to our coastal communities.
Sunshine Coast council disaster management coordinator Allan Rogers said advice from Main Roads indicated there were significant bottlenecks that would choke the network in the event of a mass evacuation.
Mr Rogers said the strategy in terms of storm surge and cyclonic activity was clear and was demonstrated in May when vulnerable areas threatened by an east coast low were evacuated and outdoor dining in Mooloolaba closed.
However, he said it remained unclear what exposure the region faced to the threat of tsunamis.
Assessment was now being made federally of the level of risk which would be dependent on our distance from fault lines and the impact of ocean trenches.
The council monitored reports that flowed quickly from the South Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre following the three earthquakes which occurred within three hours of eachother on Thursday morning.
Sunshine Coast Daily surf forecaster Mike Perry said estimates of the time it would take for any tsunami that formed as a consequence of the quakes were broadcast within three minutes of the events but ultimately the only impact on the Australian coast was a three to four centimetre tsunami which hit the outer Great Barrier Reef.
The Queensland opposition emergency services spokesman Ted Malone used parliament to seek detail of progress with a new communications system to warn the public of tsunamis, storms, cyclones, floods and bushfires.
“Again and fortunately our coastal communities weren’t threatened,” Mr Malone said.
“But what if they had have been? We need to know what progress is being made by the government to better warn residents of the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and towns and cities right up the coast.”
Mr Malone said the government needed to be proactive in developing a broad-based public warning system that utilised not only the media but also email, SMS alerts and even loudspeaker warnings.
Emergency Queensland director of disaster management Mike Shapland said in response to questions put to Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts that evacuation plans had been developed to vacate low-lying coastal areas in the event of threat.
“These detailed plans identify a range of actions that could, depending upon the time available and the specific risk be implemented. These actions, undertaken at the local level, may include ordering the evacuation of residents in low lying areas and associated advice,’’ Mr Shapland said.