Australian Catholic University campus evacuated after chemical spill in laboratory

HUNDREDS of students have been evacuated from the Australian Catholic University campus after a chemical spill in a laboratory this morning.

Roads around the university in Edward St, North Sydney, were closed as fire crews rushed to the scene.

The spill is understood to have involved a acid-based chemical of an explosive nature.

Superintendent Ian Krimmer from NSW Fire and Rescue said firefighters were in the process of assessing the nature of the spill.

“Someone noticed the leak and did the right thing,” Supt Krimmer said.

The entire campus has been evacuated and three fire crews are at the university with further experts on the way.

About 200 students had to leave the university and there were some classes in session at the time.

“Many university laboratories use this acid (picric acid), one of the technicians observed the container and he had some concerns about the seal,” Supt Krimmer said.

“To his credit he’s done the right thing and enacted their emergency procedures.

“This particular acid can become unstable and can be explosive in certain circumstances.”

He said the chemical was used for the development of proteins as an etching agent.

“That chemical has been placed in a safer container and has been removed from the campus for further disposal at another location,” he said.

The incident happened about 11am in a storage area.

“ACU has evacuated buildings located at its 40 Edward Street campus North Sydney due to a chemical spill,” a statement from the university said.

“Emergency services have taken control of the site and are in the process of removing hazardous material. They are assessing the situation and ACU will continue to provide updates.”

Nobody has been injured in the incident.

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Chemical explosion and fire at Melbourne car paint laboratory

Emergency services spent more than 90 minutes battling a fire caused by an explosion at a Melbourne laboratory today.

Emergency services rushed to PPG Automotive Refinish, which develops paints for cars, on McNaughton Road in Clayton after they received a call reporting an explosion and fire at around 2.30pm.

About 150 people fled the building, with the fire contained to the second floor of the laboratory.

Paramedics examined all staff who were in the room at the time, with only two staff treated at the scene for mild nausea.

Hazmat crews will assess the scene of the accident before allowing staff back in.

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Bruce Highway reopens after truck believed to be carrying hydrochloric acid runs off road at Beerwah

The southbound lanes of the Bruce Highway at Beerwah have reopened almost three hoursafter a truck believed to be carrying a highly corrosive acid ran off the road.

Emergency services were called to the highway near Roys Road at Bells Creek about 7:15am to reports of the truck losing its load.

The truck ended up on its side just off the road and the driver suffered minor injuries.

A Queensland Police Service spokesman said the truck was thought to be carrying hydrochloric acid.

The southbound lanes reopened about 10:00am, however motorists have been enduring long delays.

ABC News journalist Gemma Breen, who has been held up by the spill, said southbound traffic just north of the crash site began moving at a snail’s pace when the road reopened.

“We’re crawling along and it hasn’t improved for a really long time. We’re about 30 minutes north of the spill site,” Breen said.

“Some cars have turned around and gone the other way.

“We’ve been caught in the traffic now for an hour… nothing seems to be improving.”

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Perth worker blasted in face by ammonia is rushed to hospital, six others also injured

A man in his early 20s was rushed to hospital after a high pressure pipe split and blasted ammonia into his face at a business in the eastern Perth suburb of Hazelmere.

Six other people were also taken to hospital as a result of the accident at cold storage and transport facility Rand Refrigeration, a cold storage and transport facility.

Company spokesman Dave Christison said the man’s face was hit by the ammonia.

“A contractor who was working in the cold storage facility at Rand has accidentally dislodged a valve on an ammonia pipeline,” he said.

The man inhaled the gas and was transferred to Royal Perth Hospital where he is in a serious but stable condition.

Four other people have been taken to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, while another person was conveyed to Joondalup Hospital.

Mr Christison said the scene was being decontaminated and all affected employees at the site had been stripped and washed before being taken to hospital.

He said there was no risk to the public.

“At all times the ammonia leak was contained within the room where the contractor was working,” he said.

“It has never been vented to the atmosphere so there is no danger to the community or to other workers [so] safety is an absolute priority.”

Five fire and emergency services crews were sent to the Vale Road business, which will not be opened again until the ammonia gas has been completely cleared.

“As we understand it DFES is still debating at this stage whether they will try to evacuate the ammonia or wait for it to dissipate,” said Mr Christison.

“It could be some time, and that’s unfortunate because it’s a very important time of the year in a cold storage facility with lots of fresh, frozen and chilled food in it waiting to go out to supermarkets and the like.”

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Endeavour Hills residents urged to steer clear of Monash Freeway after chemical spill shuts it down

TRAFFIC was brought to a standstill on the Monash after highly flammable aviation fuel spilled from a truck, forcing authorities to shut down Melbourne’s busiest freeway today.

The freeway was closed between Heatherton and Stud roads, Endeavour Hills, from 11.30am to 3pm after a 200 litre drum leaked fuel onto a lane near the Heatherton Rd overpass.

CFA operations officer Greg Christison said a passing motorist warned the truck driver before authorities were alerted.

“Iit was escalated to having 40 firefighters on the scene and working with some very specialised gear,” he said.

“After the good work of our firefighters we were able to isolate the chemicals and resolve the incident quite quickly prior to the peak hour traffic.

“They’ve done a terrific job.”

VicRoads road operations director Dean Zabrieszach said heavy delays were expected in the wake of the reopening.

“The freeway closure was this afternoon extended from Heatherton Road to Belgrave-Hallam Road to ease congestion with traffic merging onto the South Gippsland Freeway,” he said.

“Inbound traffic on the South Gippsland Freeway was also diverted onto the Princes Highway.

“We have been on site with emergency services since late morning clearing the chemical spill, and we thank motorists for their patience.

“Although the freeway is now open, drivers need to be prepared for ongoing delays.

“We do encourage drivers to seek alternative routes, or wait until later in the afternoon before they decide to take the Monash Freeway.”

CFA spokesman Gerard Scholten said authorities took every precaution possible before the freeway was reopened to traffic.

The spill was stabilised and determined to be safe at 2.30pm.

Victoria Police had earlier issued an alert urging residents to stay indoors.

A Channel 9 helicopter pilot told 3AW that he could see traffic banked back for 2 to 3km.

The pilot said crews assessing the spill were using full breathing apparatus.

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Charleville truck explosion

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has called for a review of the trucking of dangerous chemicals in the wake of a catastrophic explosion in south-west Queensland.

A two-kilometre exclusion zone was declared near Charleville after the truck, carting more than 50 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, crashed and rolled about 10:00pm (AEST) on Friday.

It was being transported to South Australia for the mining company, Orica.

Experts from the company were assisting authorities in investigating the accident.

The blast was so powerful it “disintegrated” the truck, destroyed two firefighting vehicles and two bridges, and blew a hole in the Mitchell Highway.

The truck driver, two fire officers, and two passers-by remain in hospital with serious injuries, while three other rescue workers were recovering at home.

TWU spokesman Peter Biagini said there should be restrictions on which trucks could carry which chemicals.

“I think we need to have a good look at this sort of product, and maybe when they are carting these sort of chemicals that the trucks that are carting them should run on natural gas instead of diesel, so if there is an incident like that happened on the weekend you don’t have those two products mixing together and causing the explosion,” he said.

Queensland Trucking Association CEO Peter Garske said the cause of the crash had to be thoroughly investigated before any discussion could begin on tightening regulations.

“If there’s no crash, there’s no explosion,” he said.

“I’ll be looking to cooperating. I’ve got no doubt my industry and the company concerned will cooperate with all the authorities to see what lessons are to be learned, was it avoidable, was that an issues with the tuck, the driver, the road or indeed some other person on the road as is the case in heavy vehicle crashes.”

In a statement, Orica said its team would work alongside emergency services and regulators to understand both the cause of the accident and its aftermath and also provide advice regarding the management of the site and clean up activities.

“The thoughts of all Orica employees in Australia are with the driver of the contractor’s vehicle and emergency service workers who responded to the accident and who are now being treated for injuries,” the statement said.

“It is not appropriate to speculate on the cause of the accident and subsequent events as these are the subject of the investigations now underway.

“The safe transportation of ammonium nitrate is regulated under the Australian dangerous goods code and in Queensland under the Explosives Act, which is overseen by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines and Inspector of Explosives.”

Explosion, emergency response to be probed

Fire Assistant Commissioner Tom Dawson said around 20 investigators would return to the scene today, with police and forensic experts already having been granted access to the site on Sunday.

“The rain came in late yesterday afternoon and hampered the work, but the scene is now safe,” he said.

“There is a lot more photographic [evidence], more measurements to be taken — a lot more documentation.

“We hope to have that concluded by just after lunch and then we are going to start recovering the vehicles – that’s the two fire trucks, and there are two private trucks near the crash scene, as well.”

Mr Dawson said authorities would also review the emergency response to the explosion.

The assistant fire commissioner said emergency workers reported problems with telephone and radio coverage at the site in the aftermath of the blast.

“Then you get into sat phones, and if you’re not standing in the right place 30 kilometres outside of town your sat phone just won’t work,” he said.

“You may have to move three or four metres, but you spend half your time trying to find reception and that’s when you have time to do it, and you’re calm and just looking and you have time to achieve, then you will achieve it.

“But if you’re having to think on the spot and move quickly, very challenging.”

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Three dead in petrol tanker crash near Wodonga

BP has recalled its entire Australian truck fleet after one of its tankers lost its trailer and crushed three people to death in the state’s north-east.

A four-year-old boy and two women, aged 67 and 33, were killed when their cars were crushed by the trailer on Wodonga-Yakandandah Road on Thursday morning.

Police believed the trailer detached from the tanker as it went around a bend, drifted onto the other side of the road and collided with two oncoming vehicles.

“It’s a traumatic, horrendous scene on all levels. It’s a tragic day in this community,” Superintendent Paul O’Halloran said.

“It appears at this stage the first vehicle to be struck contained a single driver and then struck the second vehicle containing a woman and a young child.”

Superintendent Paul O’Halloran said fuel was removed from the truck to avoid an emergency situation.

Overnight, BP Australia president Andy Holmes issued a statement saying that the company was supporting external investigations and would recall its entire fleet.

“I have instructed the business to initiate an inspection program of BP’s trucking fleet with transport regulators across Australia,” Mr Holmes said in the statement.

Mr Holmes said around 42 BP and contractor vehicles would be taken off the road nationally as part of the recall.

“While the precise cause of this tragic incident may not be known for some time, it is essential we do all that we can to understand how this occurred and to ensure that it cannot happen again,” he said.

The national recall came after BP confirmed one of its tankers was involved in the crash yesterday and recalled its Victorian fleet.

“We are deeply saddened that there has been loss of life,” the company said in a statement yesterday.

“We can confirm that the incident did not result in the release of any fuel from the product tanker.

“In addition to fully supporting external investigations being conducted by the authorities as a matter of precaution, we have recalled all of our Victorian trucking fleet.”

Locals describe hearing loud explosion

Officers from the major collision investigation group were investigating the crash.

Police are interviewing the 50-year-old truck driver.

Harry Dennis lives near the crash scene and heard the crash from his house.

“We heard one almighty bang while we were finishing our breakfast around five to nine,” he said.

“I thought it was an explosion [and knew] something had really gone bad. It was too loud for for a gun shot.”

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Workers treated after chemical accident at Cloverlea dairy property

Three men are fighting for their lives after an accident at a dairy farm in Cloverlea, near Warragul, east of Melbourne.

A farmer was inside a storage tank on the property when he was overcome with gas.

His two sons entered the tank to rescue him, and were also overcome.

Sarah Coster, the wife of one of the sons, says it was a shocking experience.

“It was just total chaos, there was just a horrible scene to see,” she said.

“As soon as I saw his eyes, the look in his eyes.”

The three men are in induced comas at the Alfred and Royal Melbourne hospitals.

Seven others, including two police officers and two paramedics were also affected by the fumes.

Police say the gas came from fermented cattle feed product.

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