Kiama a natural disaster area

ON Monday as the state and federal governments were declaring Sunday morning’s wind storm a natural disaster, residents from 20 homes in Minnamurra Street and Swan Place were been evacuated as asbestos specialists dealt with the contaminated sites.

Heavy machinery will be used to break up and remove material.

As asbestos which was initially wet from rain, has dried out and broken it up, it has become the greatest challenge for emergency services personnel and the biggest threat to residents.

NSW Police and other emergency services addressed a community meeting at the Kiama Council Chambers on Monday evening today to update residents.

Local Emergency Operations Controller, Lake Illawarra Local Area Command Superintendent Wayne Starling said the meeting was held to keep people whose houses have been affected by the contamination, informed.

‘‘The neighbours would know, the people who live in the areas would know - they look on the ground and there’s just asbestos everywhere, our main priority is to get rid of that asbestos,’’ he said.

Superintendent Starling said emergency service personnel doorknocked in the area to ensure everyone was notified.

Residents were asked to make sure they were out of their homes by 7am this morning.

Where possible they were asked to stay with friends and family but crisis accommodation is available at council holiday cabins and parks, among other places. Council has also offered affected residents the opportunity to use the holiday parks shower facilities.

Unaffected members of the community have also also offered to open up their homes.

Assessments have identified 14 residences in Minnamurra St and two small blocks of units in Swan Place which have asbestos issues.

Police were unsure how long residents would be asked to be out of their homes.

‘‘Our aim is not just to keep the community safe today but healthy in the future," Supt Starling said.

Temporary fencing has been erected to maintain the safety and security of the houses. Yesterday Kiama Council mayor Brian Petschler and general Manager Michael Forsyth toured the area to survey the damage from the air.

Just after 5pm Mr O’Farrell made the official disaster declaration opening up state and federal funds to carry out the clean-up operation.

Kiama mayor Brain Petschler thanked emergency services staff and volunteers for their efforts so far.

“I am extraordinarily proud of the way the local emergency services have responded to this natural disaster, the response has been well coordinated and well executed”, he said.

“I would especially like to thank Local Area Commander Wayne Starling, Deputy Controller of the

Kiama SES John Wall and Regional SES Controller Greg Murphy for their superior efforts coordinating the emergency services response to this natural disaster,’’ he said.

For more information, call Kiama Council Customer Services on 42320444.

The Insurance Industry Council hotline is 1800 734 621.

Kiama SES Deputy Controller John Wall shows NSW premier Barry O'Farrell a map of the damage done in Kiama on Sunday morning.

Kiama SES Deputy Controller John Wall shows NSW premier Barry O'Farrell a map of the damage done in Kiama on Sunday morning.