Australian state of Victoria likely to remain in dark for weeks after severe storms

Canberra: Thousands of residents in the Australian state of Victoria, battered by devastating storms last week, are expected to remain without power for up to three weeks.

The electricity company AusNet said on Thursday that flooding and wild winds on June 9 and 10 had brought down trees and power lines, causing major damage to its network, resulting in a blackout for about 3,000 residents in the Dandenong Ranges, about 35 km east of the capital city, Melbourne, reports Xinhua news agency.

“Our field crews are working as safely and as quickly as possible in challenging conditions,” AusNet stated on its website.

“We have back up from interstate crews to help us with the rebuilding efforts and we are providing back-up generation where we can.”

The company noted this was the “worst damage to its network in a single incident in memory and there remained a lot of work to be done”.

Responding to the crisis on Thursday, Victoria’s acting Premier James Merlino announced that households without power were now entitled to a compensatory payment of A$1,680 ($1,282) per week.

“The depth of winter and weeks and weeks without power, this is an unprecedented emergency,” he said.

Meanwhile, travel restrictions placed on Melbourne residents due to a Covid-19 lockdown were lifted, but the state’s emergency services warned people against visiting the Dandenong, as many roads remain closed due to storm debris and many damaged trees still needed to be removed.

There have also been reports of a sinkhole and collapsed roads in the area and there are concerns that the saturated soil could lead to even more trees coming down.

Merlino told reporters that the government would consider laying power cables underground to avoid such future storm damage but conceded there were no immediate “big infrastructure responses”.

“The assessment of the damage is taking place right now, so it’s a bit early at this stage to talk about the extent of the damage and what will be done in response,” he said.

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