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Australia's deadliest ghost town: Innocent-looking settlement hides a secret that can kill the unwary

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 7/12/2018 Kylie Stevens

a close up of a sign: The former Western Australian mining town of Wittenoom attracts many tourists, despite department warnings about its deadly past

The former Western Australian mining town of Wittenoom attracts many tourists, despite department warnings about its deadly past
© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited
A ghost town in Western Australia is still attracting hordes of tourists, despite warnings not to visit the area because of a deadly reminder of its mining past.

Residents who used to live in Wittenoom have been shocked to see posts appearing online in recent months showing travellers venturing through old mine shafts.

In 1978,  the state government began phasing down the former town of Wittenoom because of health concerns about the presence of airborne asbestos.

Wintenoom was officially degazetted in 2007. 

But the lure of visiting the area in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, including the Wittenoom Gorge, remains appealing to many, WA Today reported.

The Western Australia Department of Lands website has issued a blunt warning for those who are considering visiting the area.

'Asbestos fibres from past mining operations in Wittenoom have already resulted in thousands of fatalities among miners, residents and visitors to the town. STAY SAFE. DO NOT TRAVEL TO WITTENOOM,' the website warns.

The website says the 'area is affected by asbestos contamination derived from historical mining activities in three locations'.

'Remnants of blue asbestos (the most deadly of all types of asbestos) are still present throughout the Wittenoom Asbestos Contaminated Area, presenting a serious risk to human health.' 

Even exposure to very small dosages of blue asbestos over a short period of time result in mesothelioma, which may not show up for 40 or 50 years, according to Shire of Ashburton's website.

Former resident Lyniece Bolitho, who runs the Lost Wittenoom Facebook page, lost her father, three uncles and two grandfathers to mesothelioma. 

She is shocked at the recent emergence of photos, videos and posts on social media of tourists, families and mine workers visiting the former town and taking their children to Wittenoom Gorge to swim.

Dales Gorge at Karijini National Park, near the hazard zone, is also being promoted as a tourist destination.

Ms Bolitho had this warning for those who still wanted to venture into the mine site.

'These young men... think this asbestos thing won't happen to them. The mine closed in 1966. They think that's it, end of story,' she told WA Today.  

'But my friends are still passing away. I was at a funeral two weeks ago.'

The Shire of Ashburton issued a warning on its website this week after it became aware of recent reports of tour companies, individuals and families visiting Wittenoom as part of their expeditions to the Pilbara.

'It is possible that people may be unaware of Wittenoom’s history, however aspects of it are such that the history of Wittenoom raises serious questions as to safety of visiting the town and its surrounds, even today,' the council website states.   

'However, numerous short-term visitors and tourists, who only visited the area briefly, have contracted and died from asbestos related illnesses and have also made legal claims. It is strongly recommended that people do not visit Wittenoom and its surrounds as a part of any independent or organized tour itinerary.'

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