Initial fears over the toxicity of the Footscray warehouse fire smoke have been quashed, with experts saying there is no immediate threat to people’s health.
Health concerns where raised when dark, opaque smoke filled the air at 4am on Thursday when unexplained explosions started a fire at an industrial warehouse on Somerville Rd, West Footscray.
However, Daniel Steinfort, a Respiratory Physician at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, told the ABC there wasn’t “any clear risk to people in the area” anymore.
People with lung diseases like asthma have little to worry about and should continue taking their regular medications.
However, authorities are still keeping in close contact with hospitals to monitor any spikes in respiratory problems.
As the smoke is not representing a high risk anymore, Dr Steinfort warned that the invisible dust released during the burn could be a health risk in the coming days.
While health fears over the smoke have subsided, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued a warning for people to avoid Stony Creek, and waters in Hobsons Bay around Spotswood and Williamstown, after major waterways have been flooded with toxic chemicals.
People are to stay away from the water and avoid any contact with it.
Melbourne Water announced that they have now deployed two pumps at Stony Creek to manage the water contamination and ensure the wellbeing of residents and wildlife.
More than 50 schools and child care centres in the factory surroundings were closed yesterday due to the thick smoke. They were reopening today as the situation is now under control.
However, according to authorities, the fire will take days to be completely smothered and residents are advised to spend limited time outside their homes until then.
The enormous amount of smoke caused concern among authorities as the storage factory that caught fire contained different toxic chemicals such as acetone and acetylene, both known to be highly flammable and explosive.
The smell was described to be very unpleasant, similar to a nail polish remover odour or burned plastic.
Nineteen suburbs remain on high alert, with a Watch and Act alert still in place.
The city’s air quality return to normal will now depend mostly on the weather. Hopefully, Melbourne’s capricious weather will quickly wash out the pollutants affecting the atmosphere.
Photo: Blankenese in Flammen by Osterfeuer-12 available here and used under a Creative Commons attribution.