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Fairfield residents fear post-storm asbestos threat

Residents fear asbestos blown into their street by the storm will become airborne. Photo: suppliedFairfield residents fear dried-out asbestos, which became dislodged during Thursday’s powerful storm, has dried out and become airborne.

And they say Brisbane City Council had not acted on calls before the potentially deadly substance began breaking up on Saturday.

The southside suburb was one of the worst affected in Thursday afternoon’s powerful storm, which Premier Campbell Newman described as the biggest to hit Brisbane in almost 30 years.

The damage bill was expected to top $100 million.

Brougham Street, Fairfield, resident Gavin Jacobi said the material, which he and his neighbours believed to be asbestos, had blown off the roof of an auto-repair garage across the road.

Mr Jacobi said he understood there had been a lot of damage across Brisbane, which was taking up a lot of the emergency response time, but asbestos should be treated as a priority.

“A whole crap-load of the stuff blew on to the road,” he said.

“Everyone rang council and said ‘Look, there’s asbestos on the road – it’s wet at the moment but when it dries out, things are going to start to get nasty’.

“The council said they’d get on to it within an hour, and that was yesterday. Now we’ve got powdered asbestos blowing through the area here.”

Mr Jacobi said asbestos posed a serious health threat and needed to be dealt with.

“With asbestos, if we breathe the stuff in, who knows what will happen 30 years down the road?” he said.

“There’s so much traffic here, you can actually hear the crunching of it breaking up.”

Council crews arrived on Saturday morning after Mr Jacobi had contacted Fairfax Media.

A council spokeswoman said its workers had been co-ordinating with the Queensland Police Service to clear the area.

“As a precaution, some residents and businesses directly adjoining the area where the materials are have been asked to temporarily remain indoors while the clean-up works are undertaken,” she said.

“Temporary traffic control is in place, with signage and direction on site.”

Brougham Street had been closed between the Fairfield Gardens Shopping Centre and Mearns Street, the council spokeswoman said.

Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said people should immediately dampen asbestos with water, and keep it wet, if they saw any of the material among storm debris.

“We ask that if people are concerned about building materials that may be asbestos, to please water it immediately, before contacting council,” he said.

“We will act as quickly as we possibly can, but I just ask people to understand that there is an enormous clean-up task across the city.

“Many homes across the city do still have asbestos in them, so if people do observe building material that has been disturbed as a result of the storm that could be asbestos, please report it so that it can be investigated.”

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