Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ancient Aboriginal graves washed away in Esperance storm

Aboriginal elders in Esperance in Western Australia have revealed ancient graves were washed away in the severe storm that ripped through the area over a week ago...

Esperance councillor and Aboriginal leader Doc Reynolds says part of a burial ground in the dunes next to the Bandy Creek Boat Harbour was washed away when the weir gave way to raging flood waters.

Mr Reynolds is seeking State Government support to get some bones tested in Perth after they were discovered in the harbour area. "There is a couple of bones there that I'm seeking a way to send away for further advice and hopefully once they get that advice then we can put in remedial action to what we do," he said.

He says local traditional owners and elders will now assess if action needs to be taken to preserve the rest of the burial site. "They are pretty devastated at what has happened but they want to make sure that our sensitive needs are being taken place because some of these burial sites are hundreds, if not thousands, of years old," he told ABC News.

Mr Reynolds says the site was located in the dunes on the eastern side of the harbour. He says the remains now lie in the sand-filled harbour. He says local elders are now working with the Shire and State Government to determine if current excavation work will further disrupt the burial ground.

Meanwhile, Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan said excavation of thousands of tonnes of sand, which settled in the harbour as a result of flooding earlier this month, has commenced.

Commercial fishing operations should resume from the Bandy Creek Boat Harbour in Esperance by the end of January and the harbour should be fully restored later this year, she said in a media release.

The Minister said hydrographic surveys of the harbour undertaken over the past week were being used to calculate the quantity of sand needing to be dredged and identify navigable water depths within the harbour. "We estimate that the first and second parts of the recovery plan will have a combined cost of up to $3million. When these are completed, we will reconstruct the Bandy Creek weir to a design that takes into account the impact of the recent flood," said the Minister.

Emergency services were called on to help deal with severe flooding in homes and businesses in the coastal town of Esperance, which bore the brunt of the state's largest summer storm in almost 30 years. About 100 houses in Esperance were damaged in the severe storm.

A 200 metre stretch of the foreshore was gouged away and some 37,000 sheep were also reported to have died as a result of the storm. The strongest recorded wind gust was 111 kilometres per hour at Esperance at 9pm on Thursday last week.

This broke the previous highest January wind gust in Esperance of 104 kilometres per hour in 1975.

abc news
Media release: Esperance boat harbour back in operation by end of month
Harbour work underway at Bandy Creek
Dozens of homes damaged in severe storm - ABC January 5, 2007.
Esperance area storm kills 37,000 sheep - ABC News
Severe summer storm lashes Australia's south-west - Chinapost
Heavy rain breaks records in the southeast of WA - BOM

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