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Victoria fires and storms destroy at least 60 homes as prolonged power outage payments announced

Number of homes lost set to rise as premier Jacinta Allan announces payments for thousands expected to be without power for more than a week

Victoria’s premier says storms and bushfires have claimed at least 60 properties and has announced payments for thousands of people expected to be without power for more than a week.

Speaking in Miraboo North in South Gippsland on Friday afternoon, Jacinta Allan said 16 homes in the area had been left “uninhabitable” after Tuesday’s storms.

“That number will go up,” she said.

“The damage that we can see speaks to the ferocity and the destruction of the winds that came through here, and I should also note, the local community have shared with us also the impact [of] the hail at the same time.”

The 130km/h winds caused “enormous damage to property,” she said.

“Big trees have literally been picked up and uprooted.

“It was a frightening, a deeply frightening experience to go through.”

Allan said 44 homes in Pomonal had also been destroyed by bushfires in the Grampians national park, a revised figure after authorities on Thursday said 24 homes in the town and one in Dadswells Bridge had been destroyed in the bushfires.

She said half the small town had “experienced loss” as a result of the blaze.

According to 2021 census figures, there were 187 private dwellings in the town, which has a population of 356.

The bushfire, which began at Bellfield and burned through 2,736 hectares, is believed to have been started by lightning strikes as severe storms hit the state after a series of hot days.

The storms flattened six transmission towers in Anakie, near Geelong, while wind, fallen trees and lightning brought down local power infrastructure across the state, leaving more than half a million households without electricity.

As of 11.30am Friday, there were still 33,796 homes and businesses without power, the majority of which were AusNet customers located in Victoria’s east.

AusNet has said most will have power restored by Saturday evening, with a “small number of customers in our hardest hit areas that will be without power heading into next week”.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (Aemo) said in a statement “it may still take days or more than a week in extreme circumstances to restore electricity to all of those impacted”.

Allan said “prolonged power outage” payments of $1,920 for households and $2,927 for businesses without electricity for more than seven days will be made available.

The payment is funded by both the state and federal governments, she said. The Victorian government has also introduced a waiver of the waste levy for local government areas that are storm affected through to 30 April.

“[It is] a practical way that we can provide support to councils, but also so communities can continue to get on with the big cleanup job that they have ahead of them,” Allan said.

Victoria State Emergency Service chief officer, Tim Wiebusch, said the storm was in the “top 10” the state had ever experienced.

“SES has had three of its busiest years with storms and floods right across the state,” he said, adding there have been 5,000 requests for help.

The premier said police had received the highest number of calls ever on Tuesday, which was also the “fourth-highest [day] ever for emergency services”.

“I say this because it gives us a sense of the size and the scale of the natural disaster that swept across the entirety of the state over that period,” she said.

Energy Safe Victoria, the state’s energy regulator, will investigate the collapse of the Anakie towers. It caused the immediate shutdown of the high-voltage 500kV line between Moorabool and Sydenham, which in turn tripped Loy Yang A, the state’s largest power station.

But state energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio reiterated that damage to local power infrastructure had cause the majority of electricity outages.

“What we’ve seen here is massive event,” she said. “Some of the biggest trees in the Miraboo North area ripped in half, we also heard a story this morning that one of the concrete power poles in Miraboo North snapped in half on Tuesday.”

“I’ve already put on the agenda last year, in conversations with my state counterparts and the commonwealth federal minister for energy, the need to embed energy resilience in our national regulatory frameworks,” D’Ambrosio said.

“We don’t have the luxury of considering these such events as one-in-10 year events, or one-in-50 year events. They are becoming more frequent and they become far more violent and extreme as the years go by.”

A 2020 assessment conducted by AusNet, after six towers on the same transmission line collapsed due to storms, found 11 extreme wind events had knocked out 45 transmission towers since 1959.

But the majority of these weather events had been in the past 15 years, with 25 towers coming down between 2009 and 2020.

“All failed structures were built to historical design standards with inadequate strength to withstand convective downdraft winds occurring during extreme storm events,” the report found.

According to the report, the average transmission tower in Victoria is now 57 years old, with about half coming towards the end of their designed “service life”. It said 86% were in a good or very good condition, while 12% of structures had been assessed as average with “patchy rust” and 1.5% as poor due to “extensive surface rust”.


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