All attention is currently focussed on the potential collapse of a 100m-high crane on the site.
The bad news is the Western Distributor, a key feeder road for the Harbour Bridge, will still be closed on Thursday morning, so traffic will be bad.
Authorities are saying avoid the city if you can.
The details are here.
— Fire & Rescue NSW (@FRNSW) March 12, 2014
Just after 2pm, a fire, believed to have been started by welding in a basement of a building site in the south-east corner of Barangaroo, broke out.
Fire trucks were on the scene within minutes.
The Western distributor was closed between the southern tollbooths and King Street, with south-bound traffic banking up on the Sydney Harbour Bridge as it is diverted into the city.
Sussex Street was also closed.
By 2.56pm Fire and Rescue NSW said all workers from the site were accounted for. No-one was injured.
By 3pm, 19 fire crews had responded, including three Hazmat crews.
Concerns that a crane may collapse led to the evacuation of surrounding buildings, including KPMG and the Sussex Hotel as a precaution.
NSW State Secretary of the CFMEU was stuck in traffic on the Harbour Bridge en route to the site when Business Insider spoke to him 4.10pm.
Two levels of timber form-work are believed to be ablaze in the basement site.
Superintendent Ian Krimmer says the big concern is the crane’s collapse, but it “wasn’t imminent”. Firefighters are using lasers to monitor the crane’s stability.
(Lend Lease must be dreading this, because it had a crane collapse at the UTS site in November 2012, and another in Brisbane in May 2012).
Sydney’s Transport Management Centre has given up on the bus network, expecting major disruption. Bus tickets can be used on trains and ferries instead.
Not surprisingly, they’re telling motorists to avoid Sydney’s CBD.
Lend lease statement: “We can confirm a fire at the Barangaroo South site occurred at approximately 2pm this afternoon. This occurred in the basement formwork at the southern end of the site. The site has been evacuated and emergency services are on the site. All site workers have now been accounted for and there are no reported injuries.”
4.50pm. Fire & Rescue media boss Superintendent Ian Krimmer holds media briefing saying 100 firies from 20 stations are on site working 10-15 minutes shifts because of the heat. Their priority is keeping the metal of the crane cool to stop it buckling.
Ports Authority fire tug is on standby.
The fire is under a concrete slab.
Police say it will be “some hours” before the Western Distributor will be reopened.
Around 500 workers were evacuated, along with 2000 office workers and some hotel guests.
Lend Lease’s group chief operating officer, Dan Labbad, is on site and has apologised to the people of Sydney for the incident.
He says they plan to dismantle the crane this evening.
“The heat could affect the crane but we don’t want to take any chances, which is why we will as a precautionary measure be dismantling the crane this evening… It involves a fairly routine process of pulling the crane down as you would at the end of a project”
“Our attention is now on investigating the cause of the incident,” he said.
“We are going to be looking at what activities were going on in the area.”
Supt. Krimmer says the laser beams have detected slight movement, but says that can happen naturally.
“Whether it’s the result of normal temperature fluctuations or the fire, we don’t know.”
They are awaiting for engineers to be able to move in and check for damage to the crane, but need to get the fire out first.
The fire is still burning in two levels underground. They are still unclear what’s in there and burning.
They are monitoring the smoke to check levels are safe. The area will remain clear in the meantime. Journalists are wearing face masks as a precaution. Our own Ben Collins just returned. His clothes smell of smoke.
The area remains a “collapse zone”.
“At this stage we’re concerned about the safety of our crews too,” Supt Krimmer said.
“It’s going to take some time to get this fire out.”
John Watson from WorkCover is on site. He will be overseeing the assessment by the engineers.
It’s a waiting game, but it’s going to be a long one.
Police say there will be an ongoing impact.
Temperatures in the basement fire have dropped from 1100°C to 45°C, two fire crews are now being sent in to try and bring the blaze under control.
More to come as and if it happens. Good luck getting home
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