(THE AUSTRALIAN) A five-tonne ammonium nitrate bomb detonated at midday in the central business district of one of Australia’s biggest cities could kill up to 900 people and injure 9500 within seconds. Such a large explosion would overwhelm urban emergency services and existing medical facilities if it occurred in Sydney or Melbourne, according to Don Williams, the former bomb risk manager for the Sydney Olympics.
Computer simulations of the blast in a “generic city” showed at least one office building would collapse and serious damage to another three buildings.
An estimated 550 people would be killed by fragmentation injuries from the blast.
“There’s a lot of work yet to be done. It’s reasonable to say these figures are too big for us to deal with,” Mr Williams said.
He said the same size bomb would have a very different effect in Canberra, Brisbane or Adelaide with their far less densely populated central business districts.
Mr Williams, now managing director of the security risk consultancy XTEK, told the annual homeland security conference held in Canberra yesterday that government, industry and professional bodies needed to think about the consequences of such a large blast.
More emergency services personnel needed to be trained in how to handle blast injuries and more office workers should be taught basic first-aid.
Mr Williams said he and other security risk experts wanted to model a “worst-case scenario” of a five-tonne nitrate bomb – larger than any contingency at present being planned for by government emergency service networks and significantly bigger than any actual terrorist bomb yet detonated in a major city.
Earlier this year, the British Government exploded two five-tonne bombs at Woomera in an effort to learn more about the effect of such a blast in urban areas.
Attorney-General Philip Ruddock criticised Labor’s plans to create a mega homeland security department, saying the giant US bureaucracy was not the appropriate model for Australia.
His views were echoed by US security expert, Daniel Banjamin, who told the conference the Department of Homeland Security had not lived up to its “original billing”.
“Don’t make our mistakes,” he said.
The full amalgamation of 22 different agencies would take between two and five years to reach the “baseline capability” it had had before the changes occurred.
Mr Ruddock also warned that Labor’s proposed inquiry into Australia’s intelligence agencies including ASIO would simply distract key intelligence operatives from their main task of fighting terrorism.