Fears for Queensland peninsula as engineers assess sinkhole damage
AN EARTH scientist who as a child saw a crater at the site of Saturday’s monster sinkhole has warned of how close tourists came to being killed.
About 300 terrified campers managed to avoid injury when they scrambled away from Inskip Point, near Rainbow Beach on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, when the sinkhole opened up near the shore.
Experts said this afternoon the popular camping spot was now stable and that it was actually a “near shore landslide” that swallowed up a car, caravan, tents and a camping trailer, as well as 200 metres of picturesque coast.
But Ted Griffin, who works for the West Australian government’s agriculture department, told the Sunshine Coast Dailyhe wanted planning reviewed and campers restricted from the area for their safety.
“The people who were actually asleep there, they could have died,” he said.
“It will happen again, perhaps not for 50 years, but it will happen again.
“I saw one in exactly that same position, a day or so after it happened [in the late 1960s].”
Mr Griffin’s father used to own a sand mine at Inskip Point. He said a large channel between Inskip Point and Fraser Island to its north regularly built up a “shoulder” of sand and fell away.
“This is a big channel, perhaps 50 or 100 metres. It’s just a very unstable cliff of sand,” he said.
“It seems to me very poor planning that they’ve allowed development so close to such a vulnerable area.”
In 2011 a similar sinkhole at Inskip Point, which also resulted in no injuries, emerged at the same campsite.
Geotechnical engineer Allison Golsby said scientific reports now indicated the entire peninsula risked disappearing entirely.
“People have said that at some stage they think Inskip Point may not be there,” she told ABC radio.
“Now that could be thousands of years, it could be hundreds of years.”
Ms Golsby added the camping site should have had a monitoring system to warn of any further disasters.
“The ideal answer is it’s great to monitor because then we keep everybody in the right place and they won’t be put in a position like that,” she told ABC radio.
But experts have now deemed the site relatively stable, with a flat beach edge forming.
Camping grounds on either side of the site remain are still closed with a exclusion zone in place in case trees fall due to coastal erosion.
While reluctant to call Saturday’s event a “sinkhole”, Ms Golsby told news.com.au anyone entering a natural environment had to be wary of sinkholes.
“Anywhere people go that’s a natural park or a natural environment, people need to be aware that slips can occur, slumps can occur, and sinkholes can occur,” she said.
“Sinkholes do occur naturally around Australia for different reasons.
“People need to make themselves aware of what the natural rock and soil behaviour is where they stay so they can enjoy the environment, have a wonderful time and a safe time, and save our emergency services some trouble.”
All school holiday campers at the popular tourist spot managed to escape injury when the sinkhole opened up about 10.30pm on Saturday.
But they have described the terrifying speed with which it swallowed up part of their camping ground.
Camper Melanie Wotherspoon described her horror in a Facebook post.
“Yep, can’t believe we made it out,” she wrote.
“I thought we were goners for sure, was truly scary how fast it came into our camp site and swallowed it up.”
Others have described the loud, terrifying “roar” heard throughout the site before the ground opened up.
The owner of the camping ground ran through nearby camp sites, screaming at people to wake up and get out, but campers thought she was drunk, the Sunshine Coast Daily reports.
The Queensland Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing is urging people to avoid the Inskip Point area, observe traffic barriers and warning signs.
The department said the MV Beale camping area and the eastern section of the MV Sarawak camping area were closed until further notice.
“There is a real possibility the hole could expand with ocean currents, so people are urged to avoid the area,” senior ranger Dan Clifton said.
“Rangers and police have erected traffic barriers and warnings signs to advise beachgoers of potential risks.
“While we continue to assess the situation, our priority is public safety.”