WORK Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe has advised the ACT Government to use its emergency powers to remove up to half of the roof tiles from the fire-damaged Sydney Building as soon as possible due to the threat of high winds expected to hit Canberra in coming days.“If we get strong winds, those tiles could get lifted up and scattered across the streetscape and the footpath, and we are expecting some high winds in the next day or so,” Mr McCabe said in a press conference this afternoon.
“If they’re at the level that the Bureau [of Meteorology] said, we’ll be fine, but if they end up being higher than expected, we’ll have a problem.”Workers have already begun the urgent task and Mr McCabe said he hoped it would be completed sometime tomorrow, pointing out that the timeframe would depend on the weather, as heavy rain poured down outside the Legislative Assembly building, where the press conference was being held.
“Once we get those tiles off… we will then be able to pull the exclusion zone back to the footpath in front of the building, which will enable East Row to open so that we can get the traffic flowing through that area and the public transport operating more effectively,” Mr McCabe said.
Fire investigators from the Australian Federal Police are yet to complete their job working out the cause of the blaze, he added, due to a small danger that part of the roof could collapse, although the Work Safety Commissioner later clarified that a collapse was unlikely as the roof was “fairly stable”.
Earlier, Mr McCabe updated 41 businesses that were affected by the fire in a meeting that was closed to the media.
“…Some of those businesses are saying to us they feel that they’re not affected at all and they feel they should be allowed to operate now,” he told reporters after the meeting.
“What I said to them was our priority is getting the fire investigation completed and the public safety issue addressed, and we’ll be working with them to get them back to business as quickly as we can.”Businesses that were only minimally damaged by the fire still must wait until the police reopen Verity Lane, as that is where their emergency exits are located.
The Work Safety Commissioner said that from his own visual observations inside the building, businesses near the centre of the fire were “completely devastated”.