Authorities waited hours before evacuating a major Melbourne pier after engineers raised safety concerns.
Development Victoria said it received advice from an engineering firm about midday on Wednesday that despite all efforts to stabilise Dockland’s Central Pier, there had been rapid deterioration in the structure.
The century-old Central Pier is home to several businesses including a pub, cocktail bar, restaurants and event venues.
“Engineers have advised Development Victoria today that they have assessed Central Pier as being unsafe for use, requiring immediate closure,” Development Victoria said in a statement.
“Engineers have been inspecting the pier every two months since November 2018 and had previously provided certification that supported the ongoing occupation of the pier.”
Development Victoria said that as a result, occupation of the pier was unsafe and all tenants and visitors had to leave immediately.
But some diners said they were not told to leave until just before 7:00pm on Wednesday.
“We placed our orders and the entrees came out and then all of a sudden the guy says we have to evacuate, you’ve got 15 minutes,” one diner told the ABC.
“So they’re madly cooking up everything to put it on the table and we just finished and we paid our bill and then we came out.
“All they said was it was a structural issue with the pier.”
“You had to wolf down your dinner in 15 minutes … you saw the fear in the restaurateur’s eyes,” one of his dining companions said.
A woman from the same dining group said she questioned the logic of the 15-minute timeframe.
“Fifteen minutes until what? What evidence do you have to support the fact that we have 15 minutes?”
Protective barriers were erected on Wednesday night to prevent entry and Development Victoria said it was seeking further engineering advice.
Deakin University’s Commerce ball was to be held at a venue on the pier on Wednesday night but was moved to another location.
The pier had undergone structural stabilisation in the past two years, Development Victoria said.