Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1974-75 (32)

WD Scott, a management consultancy group had the overall responsibility for working with the community toward ongoing development. One of the projects that was planned and then initiated was the provision of deep sewage for the community. That necessitated the creation of deep trenches in strategic areas around the community to accomodate the new system. One of those trenches ran the length of the community from west to east, with the trench passing down the main thoroughfare past the hospital, school and store. Next to the store was an underground petrol storage tank holding some thousands of litres along with the petrol bowser. Other fuels were stored in drums on ramps adjacent to the satire and within the storage yard.

The community’s introduction to the blasting was an almighty explosion that happened after school one afternoon. We were relaxing at home when an huge explosion rent the air. Our whole house shook and shuddered. A glass light cover over a bed fell down on the spot which had been vacated only minutes before the blast. Then rocks which had been blasted from the trench being developed began raining down on the roof of our house, the one next door and the school.

Just minutes after the explosion, serious consultation was entered into with the blasters. It was determined that some ‘adjustments’ to process would need to be made.

The halt was only temporary. Shortly after school commenced the next day, blasting resumed. Children sitting at desks in the classrooms looked at each other as the first blast rent the air. Then in unison they exclaimed ‘yapu, yapu’ (rocks, rocks) and dived under desks split seconds before rocks began raining on the school roof. Parents and relations quickly arrived, children exited the school and left for proverbial ‘greener pastures’ with their parents and caregiving relations.

There were a few more blasts, children diving under desks and rocks falling on the school roof. In fact, rocks were raining down on other parts of the community. A group of young fellas were sitting on the ground floor of the disused church, playing cards. A decent sized rock came through the roof and landed in the middle of the card playing group. They exited in a hurry, abandoning the game in what had once been God’s House.

More investigation revealed that the blasting program was minus blasting mats that should have been used to smother the area being blasted, thus minimising flying rocks and debris. Short, not longer fuzes had been provided with the explosives, dramatically reducing the interval between blasts when multiple charges were set.

It was left to a very fleet-of-foot local to light the fuzes and then run like the wind in order to keep ahead of the rain of rocks and fragments that followed him as the blasts went off.

My reaction to these happenings was to make contact with authorities in Kalgoorlie who put a stay to the program until the person in charge ( who turned out to be not qualified for such work) had undertaken the appropriate training and received accreditation for the knowledge he acquired.

Maybe the stopping of the work was timely for another reason. Blasting has dent shockwaves through the ground, causing the underground concrete tank holding fuel for purchase by customers, to crack and begin leaking. There could have been one gigantic explosion had escaping fuel and vapours ignited.

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