A city paralysed by heat, bushfires and blackouts

A city paralysed by heat, bushfires and blackouts

1 February 2009

published by wagin.yourguide.com.au

Australia — Victorians are bracing themselves for another scorching week after recovering from a record heatwave with temperatures of up to 43degrees for three days straight.

Melbourne recorded the hottest day since 1939 on Friday when the thermometer rose to 45.1degrees at 4.28pm.

It is the hottest and longest recorded heatwave since 1855.

The city set another record when about 500,000 homes and businesses were left without power after an explosion in an electrical substation on Friday afternoon caused the worst electrical blackout in Victoria’s history. More than 10,000 homes remained without power yesterday as energy providers scrambled to fix damaged transmission lines.

Full power was not expected to be restored until this evening.

Victoria’s Premier, John Brumby, defended the state’s power system against criticism over the blackout.

“We’re in uncharted waters, unprecedented conditions, and with the week and hot weather [we have had], some of these systems have never been designed to operate in 44- to 45-degree heat and barring any catastrophic incidents, power supplies today will be fine,” Mr Brumby said.

Victoria’s train services suffered in the heat, with 17 cancellations on Melbourne’s suburban train line and five cancellations on country lines yesterday.

And a massive bushfire in the Latrobe Valley, which appears to have been deliberately lit, has so far destroyed up to 20 homes and a forest plantation in the East Gippsland region.

Two bushfires joined to become one massive blaze of 6000 hectares along the Strzelecki Ranges.

More than 500 firefighters tried to contain the northern edge of the fire, which is just two kilometres from a major transmission line supplying electricity to Melbourne.

The Bureau of Meteorology predicts another week with 30-degree-plus temperatures for coastal areas in Victoria, and even hotter inland.

Victorian ambulance services had to deal with a record number of emergency calls – a 71per cent increase on the daily number of requests for help – on Friday, with 159 patients suffering heat exposure.

South Australia also suffered from five straight days of temperatures in the 40s, with six deaths reported yesterday, and 24 deaths on Friday.

Meanwhile, NSW firefighters are still battling an uncontained bushfire that has burned nearly 2000hectares of bushland in the past 11 days on the South Coast.

The fire, which appeared to have been started by a lightning storm, is burning in a remote area of the Budawang National Park about 30 kilometres north-west of Bateman’s Bay.

Eleven water-bombing helicopters have been used, with the inaccessible terrain making it difficult for firefighters to battle the blaze from the ground. Last night there were no reports of injuries or damage to private property. Melbourne’s horror week

* Worst power blackout in history.

*  Longest, hottest heatwave since 1855.

*  Still 10,000 homes without power.

*  Bushfire destroys 11 properties in the Latrobe Valley, threatens Melbourne’s electricity supply.

*  A city in shock after four-year-old Darcey Freeman is thrown off the West Gate Bridge.

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