Farmer dead, thousands without power after storm

One person killed in Vic weather chaos

A dairy farmer is dead and hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses remain without power after Victoria’s destructive storms.

Five firefighters from the Ballarat Country Fire Authority brigade also suffered minor injuries when their truck was caught in a rollover while fighting blazes near Pomonal, in Victoria’s west.

Earlier, authorities also confirmed properties had been lost in the fires near the Grampians National Park. Local state MP Emma Kealy said 25-30 homes were believed to have been destroyed.

“We’ve had one fatality confirmed, a dairy farmer in Mirboo North who was killed in the storms that went through South Gippsland last night,” Premier Jacinta Allan said on Wednesday.

The 50-year-old man was struck by debris while working on a roof at a property in Darlimurla in South Gippsland on Tuesday, police say.

He died at the scene.

WorkSafe is investigating the exact circumstances of his death, while police will prepare a report for the coroner.

She said the storms had created significant damage statewide, with wind and trees taking down power lines.

In one of the largest power outages in Victorian history, it could take weeks to fully fix.

Hundreds of power poles and lines were downed and six transmission towers near Anakie collapsed on Tuesday, sending all four units at the Loy Yang A power station offline.

At its peak, 529,000 properties were without power due to the damage from storms, strong winds and lightning.

That number had dwindled to roughly 220,000 on Wednesday morning. But the state’s Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action warned progress could be slow.

“Crews are actively working to restore power to these impacted areas,” the department said.

“However, given the extent of the widespread damage, it may take days if not weeks to restore electricity to all of those impacted.”

Loy Yang A, a coal-fired plant in the Latrobe Valley to the state’s east, generates about 30 per cent of Victoria’s power.

The station’s owner, AGL, confirmed two units had returned to service on Wednesday morning. The others were expected to progressively come back online within 24 hours, it said in a statement to the stock exchange.

The network disruption pushed the spot power price in Victoria and Tasmania to its ceiling of $16,600 per megawatt-hour, hundreds of times higher than typical levels.

But Australian Energy Market Operator chief executive Daniel Westerman said the high wholesale power prices were back to normal.

“It was also at the market price floor yesterday … so that means consumers are being paid to take that energy,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.

“It was a volatile day.”

While admitting the bending of the transmission towers under severe winds was disturbing, Westerman said it was not unheard of.

“Transmission lines folded over and lying on the ground has happened before in the last couple of years,” he said.

“Those weather events are becoming more and more severe.”

Dozens of schools or early-learning centres across Victoria were closed on Wednesday because of fire warnings or power outages.

“Schools are making every effort to provide information to families as quickly as they can and where possible are providing supervision for students where they need it,” an education department spokesman said.

Firefighters injured in Victoria

Traffic lights were also affected by the widespread outages, with the State Emergency Service fielding 2750 calls for help from midday on Tuesday to 6am on Wednesday.

“This has been one of the largest outage events in the state’s history,” Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Federal Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neill, who represents the Melbourne electorate of Hotham, said it was surprising so many homes lost power.

“There’s some really important questions to ask and answer here about how it’s possible that a country like Australia can lose power for 500,000 people because of a storm,” she told Seven’s Sunrise program on Wednesday.

“But I do think those questions are for later.”

Tuesday was a scorcher for multiple states. It was worst in Victoria, where temperatures topped 40 degrees in some parts and thunderstorms swept the state, starting fires.

A catastrophic fire danger rating was declared for some parts of Victoria on Tuesday, the first since the deadly Black Summer of 2019-20.

By Wednesday afternoon, no emergency bushfire warnings remained active across the state. The fire danger in the Wimmera, in the state’s far north-west remained high.

-with AAP

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