The bridge over Retreat Creek, Sapphire, was closed following major rainfall on March 17.
The bridge over Retreat Creek, Sapphire, was closed following major rainfall on March 17.

Why the warning siren didn’t sound during Sapphire flood

Sapphire community members were concerned that the recently installed emergency warning system was not triggered prior to the flooding of the area on Wednesday morning.

Many community members raised concerns that while the warning siren at Rubyvale went off, the one located at Sapphire failed to.

The concern came after Retreat Creek rapidly rose to 9.8m within after mere hours of heavy rain, which caused flash flooding resulting in evacuation across the town.

Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Kerry Hayes told CQ News, the new system was not triggered intentionally, due to the rapidness of the situation.

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"This is a new system, and [Tuesday] night was its first true test since being installed," he said.

"The sirens are manually activated, either remotely or on site.

"Due to the rapid nature of the rainfall, the window in which the sirens could have been activated was small.

"By the time information was received from gauges in the catchment area, the river was already close to peaking."

Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Kerry Hayes.
Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Kerry Hayes.

 

Cr Hayes said the early warning system in the Sapphire Gemfields was just one of the methods that could be used to alert the community in a flooding event.

An emergency SMS alert was issued to local residents by the Bureau of Meteorology advising them to move to higher ground.

"Emergency services were also already on scene alerting the public and co-ordinating evacuations," Cr Hayes said.

"The decision was therefore made not to activate the sirens so as not to cause further confusion.

"We have multiple mechanisms in place to protect our communities in these types of situations and this is exactly why."

He said the synchronisation of the warning system would be looked at and recalibrated if needed.

"This is a great learning opportunity and we are grateful to our community for their co-operation and swift action," Cr Hayes said.


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