Transmission towers toppled as Victoria endures blackouts and bushfires

One of the largest power outages in Victorian history could take weeks to fully fix after wild storms knocked down transmission towers and blacked out hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses as fires raged across the state.

Collapsed transmission towers at Anakie in Melbourne on Wednesday. Photo: AAP

Collapsed transmission towers at Anakie in Melbourne on Wednesday. Photo: AAP

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.

The state government on Wednesday said that a Mirboo North dairy farmer had died in the storms, but there were no other details.

The number of properties without power had reduced to roughly 250,000 on Wednesday morning but the 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.

Station owner AGL said two units have returned to service on Wednesday morning and the others were expected to progressively come back online in the next 24 hours.

The network disruption pushed the spot power price in Victoria and Tasmania to its ceiling of $16,600 per MW-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 said.

“It was a volatile day.”

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Meanwhile, three bushfires continue to burn out of control in regional Victoria.

The threat has eased in the Grampians National Park but some residents to its east are still being told to shelter on Wednesday morning.

Country Fire Authority chief officer Jason Heffernan said the blaze near Pomonal and Bellfield, which has burned more than 2100 hectares, remains the main focus for crews.

“We do know there has been property loss, both homes and outbuildings,” he said.

State response controller Garry Cook described Tuesday’s conditions as “horrific”, with reports of flames reaching 30 metres.

“People got out, which is great, but unfortunately there has been some property losses,” he said.

Five country firefighters suffered minor burns from cinders after flames went over their truck at Pomonal on Tuesday night.

Another fire near Mount Stapylton, further north in the national park, is burning at watch and act level.

“The situation is still evolving,” Premier Jacinta Allan wrote on social media.

“Right now, crews are on the ground and in the air working as hard as they possibly can to defend homes, lives, and properties,” she said.

– with AAP

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