Wild weather cuts power in Australia, sparks bushfire

Workers inspect damaged transmission towers at Anakie in Victoria, Australia Wednesday. Photo courtesy: AAP Image/Con Chronis via Reuters

Sydney: Hundreds of thousands of residents across Australia's Victoria state remained without power on Wednesday after wild weather knocked down transmission lines and sparked bushfires that injured five firefighters.

Strong winds on Tuesday forced down transmission lines, tripping the generators at AGL's Loy Yang A power station. The outage impacted half a million properties, one of the largest in Victoria's history.

About 220,000 homes or businesses were still without power on Wednesday morning, Victoria state Premier Jacinta Allan told reporters. "We are still less than 24 hours into the emergency response phase and the situation is continuing to quickly evolve," Allan said.

AGL said two units at the power station had returned to service while the remaining two could be back up over the next 24 hours. Australia's energy market operator said it could take weeks to restore power to all impacted customers.

"We've got houses in our street which have just been completely smashed by trees. Some cars have been destroyed," Federal Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil said in a video posted on X, formerly Twitter.

Authorities said one man was killed by flying debris in the south of the state. Train services on some Melbourne routes were suspended, and at least 10 schools and dozens of childcare centres were closed. Australia's biggest telecommunications company, Telstra, said storms had affected its services in some regions.

In the state's west, firefighters battling to contain three bushfires sparked by lighting on Tuesday were hoping a change in the weather could help contain the blazes quickly.
Five firefighters received minor burns after becoming trapped while trying to douse bushfires ignited by lightning strikes during the storm near the Grampians National Park in Victoria's west, said Jason Heffernan, chief officer at Victoria state's fire department.
"Certainly a close call for the crew that got entrapped. Such were the conditions yesterday, the heat, the wind and the fire intensity," Heffernan told ABC television.

Australia's weather bureau forecast milder conditions on Wednesday with temperatures in the low to mid-20 degree Celsius (68°F) and moderate winds, but warned the risk was not over yet.

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