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Power scramble for tens of thousands in Victoria, while north braces

Crews are working to clear debris and repair powerlines following Tuesday's catastrophic storms.

Crews are working to clear debris and repair powerlines following Tuesday's catastrophic storms. Photo: AAP

Tens of thousands of Victorians will spend the next two days without power as crews scramble to reconnect homes and businesses lashed by destructive storms.

About 48,000 dwellings and premises were still disconnected from the electricity network on Thursday evening, down from a peak of 530,000.

It is expected most of these will be reconnected by 6pm on Saturday, while a further 3000 are likely to have power restored early next week.

Most are serviced by AusNet, with the power provider reconnecting 25,000 on Thursday.

An army of 400 AusNet crews were working to clear debris and repair powerlines to reconnect properties following Tuesday’s catastrophic wind event.

The storm led to one of the largest power outages in Victoria with the Yarra Ranges, South Gippsland and Bass Coast among the hardest-hit blackout areas.

Collapsed transmission lines caused the Loy Yang A coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley to shut down, but authorities insist the widespread outages were caused by local transmission damage.

Parents were forced to keep their children at home after 35 schools and childcare centres remained closed on Thursday due to storm damage.

Yarram and District Health Service in Victoria’s southeast and Korumburra Hospital in Southern Gippsland remain on backup generators, with power expected to be restored on Saturday.

About 230 phone towers remain offline as Telstra, Optus and TPG deployed crews to reconnect the services.

Emergency triple-zero calls were unable to connect as 22 communities potentially remain without phone signal.

More than 100 suburbs remain without internet access with NBN connections in Belgrave, Berwick South, Emerald, Lakes Entrance, Leongatha and Mirboo North among the most impacted.

A relief point has been set up at the Mirboo North and District Community Foundation to provide information, generators for electricity and satellite internet because the town is completely cut off by the storm damage.

Residents assess bushfire impacts

The true extent of homes destroyed by bushfires will slowly be revealed as displaced residents return to assess the damage to their properties.

About 24 homes, three businesses and 23 outbuildings have already been destroyed by the blaze at Pomonal in the Grampians National Park, with fears that number could rise, Premier Jacinta Allan said.

One home was also lost at Dadswells Bridge.

Pomonal and Dadswells Bridge residents in Victoria’s west were preparing to return to their properties on Thursday afternoon as the fire threat levels continued to be downgraded.

Later on that evening, local MP Emma Kealy said the number of houses lost at Pomonal had increased after further assessments.

“The impact teams have been working through Pomonal today and the number of houses confirmed destroyed has risen to 34,” the member for Lowan told AAP on her way back from a tour of the fire ground.

Grampians Tourism chief executive Marc Sleeman, who was forced to flee his Pomonal property on Tuesday afternoon, estimated the losses equated to about 40 per cent of all homes in his small town.

Residents of Pomonal have been advised tap water is unsafe to drink even if boiled.

Emergency relief payments of $640 per adult and $320 per child with a maximum of $2240 for a family are available for affected residents.

While $49,000 is available to help eligible people who have lost their homes due to disasters to rebuild.

People will be able to apply for the payments over the phone or in person at emergency relief centres in Ararat and Stawell.

At least two schools, the Pomonal and Halls Gap Primary Schools, were shuttered on Thursday due to fire impacts.

Almost all fires sparked in Victoria on Tuesday are believed to have been started by lightning strikes as severe storms lashed the state.

North braces for brewing cyclone

Residents in northern Australia are bracing for the worst as the eye of a potential tropical cyclone inches closer to remote communities.

A cyclone watch was on Thursday upgraded to a warning, with Gulf of Carpentaria coastal areas to be hit hard by gale-force winds and heavy rain.

The system is set to move southwest towards the NT, cross the coast and move onshore on Friday.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the tropical low had a “moderate” chance of developing into a cyclone.

Communities across Borroloola, Groote Eylandt and Mornington Island in the NT are set to be affected by the tropical low even if a cyclone does not develop.

“Whether or not this intensification occurs we still anticipate areas of strong winds and heavy rain across parts of north Queensland and the Northern Territory,” the bureau’s Angus Hines said.

Gale-force winds up to 100km/hr are set to hit the region by Friday afternoon.

In the coming days, daily widespread rain of 50 to 100mm is expected with isolated falls of 150 to 200mm.

“We could even see rainfall totals above and beyond that particularly around far northwest Queensland around the coast of the Gulf,” Mr Hines said.

Flood watches are current for northwest Queensland.

“Many of these areas have had major flooding in the past couple of weeks associated with ex-tropical cyclone Kirrily,” Mr Hines said.

“In a number of these spots particularly in north Queensland the floodwaters are still easing from the last round of flooding.

“Of particular concern are the Doomadgee and Burketown regions where many roads are closed and communities are still isolated – further flooding is a possibility into those hard-hit regions.”

Residents on Groote Eylandt in the Gulf were already reporting heavy rain and wind gusts on Thursday, with flood warnings also issued for the Katherine River.

In the NT people have been evacuated from the Beswick community south of Katherine, while residents in Burketown in Queensland were also airlifted out.

The state’s Gulf region is still reeling from widespread flooding caused by ex-cyclone Kirrily which crossed the Queensland coast weeks ago.

Tropical Cyclone Jasper also caused record flooding in the far north in mid-December.

—AAP

 

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