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Locals ignore tsunami warning

A TSUNAMI warning was issued for parts of Australia yesterday, including the Fraser Coast, but locals did not give a damn.

Despite beaches being closed, including in Hervey Bay, people flouted advice to stay away from the foreshore and were seen swimming with children, fishing along the rock wall at Urangan, heading out into the water on boats and jet skiing.

Many refused to listen to warnings from Volunteer Marine Rescue Hervey Bay and State Emergency Service volunteers guarding boat ramps.

“Sometimes you want to get people and shake them and say this is, or could, really happen,” VMR commodore Tom Hudson said yesterday.

“Heed the warnings and you’ve got to think of your kids; you just don’t know.

“Some people just ignore; they put our lives at risk. The warning is to not even come down to the waterfront.”

The warnings came after an 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Chile about 4.30pm local time on Saturday.

As a consequence, waves of up to four metres were reported around French Polynesia while Australia was put on standby for strong ocean currents, foreshore flooding and dangerous surf.

Despite that, people continued to pay no attention to the advice of experts.

“It’s silly, it’s asking for trouble,” said Mr Hudson.

“If anything does happen, we’ll be inundated with calls. These things work by stealth; nobody expects them.”

The two VMR vessels were stationed in the deep water off Big Woody Island for a few hours, monitoring the conditions and keeping a watch on the boats that were out.

The beach was closed until 1pm on orders by Surf Life Saving Qld.

Hervey Bay SLSC director Bryan Hart said it was only a precautionary measure, although the 4.21m king tide and potential of a tsunami created an unsafe combination.

WetSide was also closed with a tsunami warning sign posted on the gate and the second day of the Fraser Coast Outrigger Canoe Club annual regatta was cancelled.

SES Hervey Bay team leader Iain Boyd was at the marina telling people not to go out into the water.

“It’s not been highly successful,” he said, before adding parents were going out in boats with babies and without life jackets or radios.

“People say ‘It couldn’t happen to me’. We don’t want to be in a situation of saying ‘We told you so’.”

The Bureau of Meteorology cancelled the warning for Hervey Bay about 3pm yesterday but said unusual currents could still occur.

Threat alert

• An 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Chile about 4.30pm local time on Saturday, killing at least 300 people and damaging more than 1.5 million homes.

• A tsunami warning for the marine environment for Queensland was issued at 4.56am yesterday. It stated that threatened areas extended from Point Danger to St Lawrence, including Hervey Bay. It also said there was the possibility of dangerous waves, strong ocean currents and foreshore flooding from 8.15am (Hervey Bay from 9.45am).

• Police, Community Safety and the Bureau of Meteorology also issued warnings all day.

• For more details people can visit www.bom.gov.au.

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