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Qld: Ruptured water store passed safety check days ago

24 Nov 2008 12:22 PM
By David Barbeler

BRISBANE, Nov 24 AAP - A huge bladder used to store water ruptured, sweeping a young girl to her death, less than a week after it passed a safety check.

The chief of the company that operates the central Queensland weir said no problems were found when inspectors checked the bladder last Tuesday.

The four-year-old girl was swept down the MacKenzie River when the storage facility, holding at least 6,000 megalitres of water, failed at the BedfordWeir near Blackwater, 200km west of Rockhampton, on Sunday afternoon.

The girl's body was found on Monday, 800 metres downstream from the weir.

The Blackwater area was hit by severe storms last week, but the chief executive of Sunwater said he did not believe the wild weather was to blame for the rupture.

"I don't think so - these things are designed to carry large floods and this one has seen several large floods in its life to date," Sunwater's Peter Boettcher said.

He said the bladder was used to deal with flooding in the area as recently as January and no flaws had been found since then, including during an inspection on Tuesday last week.

"It's tested technology ... usually when it is damaged you'll identify thatas soon as the flood has finished," he said.

He said Sunwater had contacted the manufacturer of the bladder and would conduct its own investigation, which could take about a week.

Five other bladders in Queensland had all been checked since the tragedy, with no faults found.

It is believed the girl had been visiting the weir with her mother and two adult friends when the incident occurred.

All four were swept away, and the SES rescued the three adults on Sunday night, including a family friend who was found clinging to a tree.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has ordered a report into the incident.

"We are really at a loss to understand what's happened here but investigators are on the scene now, looking at what may have caused this problem," shetold the ABC.

"Those investigations will be very thorough, I have directed that I want a full structural engineering report.

"If there's anything here that we can learn on the security of other water storages then of course we've got an obligation to do so."

A report will be prepared for the coroner.

Professor Hubert Chanson from the University of Queensland, who specialisesin hydraulic and environmental engineering, told the ABC a water bladder, or inflatable dam, looked like a very long sausage.

"It is simply a rubber bag which is the shape of a very long sausage, that is on the top of the concrete dam, which is to be inflated to store water, for irrigation or drinking," he said.