Cairns to get more bomb disposal help as city debates response to roadside incident
Cairns will get a third part-time police officer with bomb disposal expertise in July as the investigation continues into who was responsible for yesterday's incident near Edmonton.
The incident shut down the Bruce Highway for seven hours after a road worker first notified police of the suspicious device at 11.45am yesterday.
The reasons behind the seven-hour timeframe to dispose of the homemade bomb remain a mystery, with the delay sparking heated debate on social media last night.
Some locals praised the police handling of the matter, while others felt Cairns was under-resourced to deal with emergency situations involving potentially explosive devices.
Queensland Police this afternoon told TropicNow that yesterday's incident was dealt with by members from both the Cairns and Edmonton Queensland Police Service Explosive Ordnance Response Team (EORT).
There was some speculation that EORT officers had been brought in from Townsville to diffuse the situation, but this was not the case. A police spokesperson did confirm to TropicNow that the state's only full-time bomb disposal experts are based in Brisbane.
“The Far North District has two part-time EORT Officers,” a police spokesperson said.
“They perform this role in a part-time capacity as well as their substantive roles.
“In July 2017, the team will increase to three officers performing EORT duties, part-time.
“The part-time EORT Officer model is currently used across the Queensland Police Service. If required, full-time EORT staff from Brisbane, or part-time EORT officers from other parts of the state can be deployed."
SECOND ACCESS ROAD NEEDED “RIGHT NOW”
The incident has renewed calls for a second southern access road for Cairns, with Member for Kennedy Bob Katter – whose electorate encompasses Edmonton – saying the time for action is “right now”.
“In light of the confirmed discovery of an explosive device in Edmonton and the ensuing traffic bedlam, I have AGAIN called for a second access for Southern Cairns,” Mr Katter said in a statement.
“The delays along the Bruce Highway, disrupts tourism and local business on a massive scale. This is just the latest example.
“There has been a reluctance by officials up to date and it has to stop."
Calling the construction of an alternative eastern corridor one of his “highest priorities”, Mr Katter said his party would “continue to fight like tigers” on the issue.
“GOD HELP US IF WE GET A DIRECT HIT”
The incident sparked heated debate on TropicNow’s Facebook page last night, with commenters divided between those praising the police’s handling of the issue and those vehemently questioning the time taken to clear the highway.
One TropicNow reader wrote: “Was a bloody joke. Just showed that we have no idea how to deal with emergency here in Cairns.
"Why take 7 hours to decide to remove and detonate. God help us if it had been in the city. All businesses would have been shut down within in a 5klm radius. Airport would have been closed.
"Just takes too long for decisions to be made. We are suppose to be gateway to the North. God help us if we get a direct hit.”
Another reader rebutted: “ 7 hours to safely detonate a explosive device next to a major Hwy with no injured. Good job I say. Big deal some people were inconvenienced and no one was hurt.”
FIRST BOMB IN RECENT HISTORY
The incident made headlines across Australia yesterday after police declared an emergency situation at 4:35pm under the provisions of the Public Safety Preservation Act.
The emergency declaration encompassed McLaughlin Road, Robert Road and both lanes of the Bruce Highway closed from Foster Road to Mill Road.
The emergency declaration was revoked at 7.15pm following the controlled detonation of the item by specialist officers.
Senior Sergeant James Coate told media that the device was not consistent with a terrorist event.
He told the ABC that the event was "highly unusual" and, so far as he knew, marked the first confirmed bomb in Cairns’ recent history. He also noted that the bomb had a wick, but did not elaborate further.
Snr Sgt Coate told News Corp that it was “more than likely to be somebody who is trying to make something go bang for a bit of fun,” adding that making homemade bombs was a “dangerous and silly thing to do.”