Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bomb Threats "hit" Brisbane City

An unprecedented shutdown of southeast Queensland's public transport network was yesterday sparked by threats that a small package would explode on a bus or train.

Queensland Rail and Brisbane City Council buses ground to a halt at midday and again during peak hour yesterday afternoon after emergency services received three separate threats.

A special hotline set up yesterday received numerous tipoffs about the threats, which included concerns about suspicious parcels and people.

I was oblivious to what was happening around me as I worked away in my city office until the receptionist came into my office at 3pm and asked how I was getting home (I take the train at 4:40pm). Naturally, I was puzzled to why she had asked that question and she proceeded to tell me what had gone on in the last 3 hours!

Just before 11am police received the first threat that eight bombs - four on Queensland Rail and four on council buses - would detonate at midday.

Another call warned emergency services of an explosion on buses and trains at 5pm. Police were concerned about the caller's persistence, prompting them to take the threats seriously in the wake of yesterday's terror raids in Sydney and Melbourne.

Late yesterday, the bomb squad evacuated some residents and cordoned off Pinelands St at Sunnybank Hills for about two hours when a bus driver alerted police to a suspicious package just before 5pm.

I promptly checked the websites of Queensland Police Service, Queensland Translink (for rail, bus and ferry) as well as Brisbane City Council. All three websites confirmed the situation. I then rang the City Council to confirm the stoppage of bus and rail at peak hour, that they confirmed too.

At that stage, it was 3:20pm. I was determined not to hang around the office and be part of the mass exodus leaving the city. Grabbed all my belongings including the laptop (thought I'd work from home on Tuesday) and rang my boss in Canberra while walking to the bus-stop. I have never seen so many people at the bus-stop at 3:30pm on a Monday afternoon and all five cab ranks around me were void of taxis! Hubby rang to say that he would come into the city to pick me up at 4:30pm which I declined because by that stage, the roads would be in chaos as people scramble to get home from all sides of the city.

As I waited impatiently at the bus-stop, police cars and ambulances were blarring their sirens and heading towards the train station which is 5 mins from where I work. There was also a deadly silence in the city like the calm before the storm. I thought to myself - this bloody bus better show up! It did and the bus was packed like a tin of sardines for the first time, ever! Anyhow, to cut the long story short. I got home 5 mins before hubby did.

According to reports, thousands of passengers on more than 700 buses and trains were evacuated, throwing peak hour travelling into chaos as trains and busese came to a stand still between 4:45pm and 5:15pm.

It's (terrorism) not something that we think much here in Brisbane but when something like this happens it does make you feel unsafe.

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