Following a day described by some as “like looking into the gates of hell”, residents from South Nowra through to Moruya and possibly further are likely to be without power and communications for days.
Late yesterday, police confirmed that at least 46,000 people or more were affected by the outage, which stretches almost 200 kilometres. The power outage also affects communications infrastructure including telephone landlines and internet access.
A number of mobile towers have also been hit by the fire and there were reports yesterday of damaged power lines arcing in already extremely dangerous conditions.
Endeavour Energy says that 17,000 of their South Coast customers will be without power for up to 48 hours after bushfires damaged major 132 kV transmission lines.
The Endeavour Energy site is currently showing an estimated restoration time of 6:00 pm, 2 January for many areas, but this appears to be indicative, and heavily damaged areas don’t have listings for unplanned interruptions.
Police said that energy companies were working with the RFS to gain access to damaged infrastructure in order to restores services. However, it’s not currently safe to do so in all areas and Endeavour Energy says crews cannot patrol feeder lines because conditions are so dangerous.
These lines also supply Essential Energy customers in the area between Batemans Bay and the NSW/Victorian border, potentially closing down supplies for a further 29,000 people.
Essential Energy says customers should be prepared for potentially extended power outages. With extreme conditions expected over the coming days, the company is warning that more customers could be affected in areas where blazes continue to threaten power supplies.
“As of 3:00 pm on New Year’s Eve, more than 31,280 customers are without power in the Batemans Bay area. Those customers will, unfortunately, be without power until the area is deemed safe to access by our crews and we can carry out repairs,” the company said in a statement.
In a separate fire-related outage, around 1,920 customers are also without power in the Tumbarumba/Tumut area. Essential Energy says it’s also working closely with the RFS to ascertain when it can safely gain access to review the situation and have senior personnel in the Emergency Operations Centres.
“Members of the public are urged to stay at least eight metres away from any fallen powerlines and report them on 13 20 80,” the company said.
“The Essential Energy website www.essentialenergy.com.au will have information about outages, however, due to the uncertainty as to when we can safely access the sites, in many cases estimated times to restore will not be available”.