Heatwave, bushfires to continue in sweltering Victoria

Heatwave, bushfires to continue in sweltering Victoria

31 January 2009

published by www.abc.net.au

Australia — Residents in Melbourne and regional Victoria are experiencing further disruptions to power supplies, as the state faces another week of extreme heat.

Meanwhile Victorian Premier John Brumby is in Gippsland to discuss the bushfire emergency that has seen blazes burn over 6,000 hectares and destroyed more than a dozen homes.

The Bureau of Meteorology says temperatures in Melbourne will drop slightly to the mid-30s over the coming days.

But forecaster Terry Ryan say inland Victoria is still recording temperatures over 40 degrees.

“We’re saying [in] the next seven days, Mildura should be 40 or above and right along the Murray the same conditions should apply,” he said.

“So we’re going to have to start looking at record number of days above 40 for anywhere in Victoria, it’s going to close to breaking it up there.

Melbourne has experienced three days over 43 degrees Celsius this week, with the CBD reaching 44.2C at 2:30pm AEDT on Friday.

But Weather Bureau spokesman Terry Ryan says it is not over yet, and it is likely records will be broken for the number of days with extremely high temperatures.

“It’s the last of the really hot days I’d say for the people within about 100 kilometres of the coast but inland areas, north of the ranges in particular, the heatwave will continue there,” he said.

“I think there’s another seven days to come for the Murray area for 40-degree days and we’re saying the next seven days for Mildura will be 40 or above.”

Weather Bureau records show there has not been a heatwave of this severity since the keeping of records began in the mid-1880s.

Fire threat

A forecast south-westerly wind is expected to cause problems for firefighters battling blazes in the Gippsland region this afternoon.

Power has just been restored to Boolarra but the township remains without water.

Police say they are having some trouble with sightseers, and are warning people to stay away from the area.

Inspector Brian Curley says the fire danger remains high for the community of Darlimurla, near Mirboo North.

“At the public meeting at present at Mirboo North, the CFA are taking registrations for people that might need to get into one of our affected areas, in the Darlimurla Estate,” he said.

“Those people will be escorted in by CFA tankers to grab whatever they need and do an appraisal and hopefully get back out.”

Fires in Gippsland, which are being fuelled by the record heatwave, are also affecting electricity supplies to hundreds of homes.

Louisa Graham from the distribution company, SP Ausnet, says the bushfires have damaged the network infrastructure.

“The fire in south Gippsland is impacting about 600 customers,” she said.

“At this point in time crews have not been able to get in to assess the damage on the fire ground but hopefully this morning if it’s safe the crews will go in and look at what we need to do to restore those customers.”

Power demand

The Victorian Government says power supplies are functioning relatively well despite the high demand placed on the network as a result of the heatwave.

The Government also says it will not invoke emergency powers to conserve energy.

The move was considered during meetings last night, after two vital transmission lines to parts of Melbourne and to western Victoria failed.

Energy Minister Peter Bachelor says the problem was caused by an explosion at the South Morang substation, run by SP Ausnet.

“We still today are in a very tight situation with power transmission, but we believe we will get through this difficult situation provided there’s not another catastrophic incident with the power infrastructure, or indeed interruptions caused by the fires which are still currently burning across Victoria,” he said.

Power was restored to most properties by midnight when the South Morang to Sydenham transmission line was repaired.

Mr Bachelor said earlier work is continuing on the second, the South Morang to Keilor line.

“And they’ve advised us, through SP Ausnet the asset owner, that they expect that this transmission line during this weekend,” he said.

“And until that second transmission line is in fact restored, we’ve got to realise that there’s no backup, should there be a similar, significant transmission fault in this part of the network.”

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