Parts of Victoria brace for more severe weather on Sunday
The Silvan Dam – one of the main water supplies for the city’s northern and eastern suburbs – lost power during the storm and a back-up generator also failed, allowing potentially contaminated water to be pumped into people’s homes.
But blackouts have made it impossible for some residents without a gas supply to boil their water.
Water tankers were sent to The Basin, Boronia, Ferntree Gully, Upper Ferntree Gully, Belgrave, Upwey, Croydon North and Mt Evelyn on Saturday for the second day, with residents encouraged to “bring your own bottles, pots [and] kettles to fill up from the tankers”.
Yarra Valley Water named 87 suburbs affected, including Doncaster, Reservoir and Eltham, while South East Water issued alerts for 13 suburbs still affected on Saturday morning.
Yarra Valley Water said it expected the water supply to back to normal by Saturday evening, but that confirmation may come at 8pm.
The company said it was conducting water quality tests to “ensure there is no risk”. Residents in affected suburbs will be notified as soon as the water is safe to drink again.
In the meantime, residents should bring their tap water to a “rolling boil” – a vigorous boil in which the bubbles do not lessen when the liquid is stirred – as a precaution for drinking, brushing teeth, food preparation, making baby formula, ice or bathing infants in the 100 affected suburbs including Epping, Doncaster, Croydon, Coburg North, Craigieburn, Mernda and Ringwood.
Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said he hoped the water boiling advisory would not be in place “for too long”, but if anyone drank the contaminated water they could get mild gastro-like symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, cramps and headaches.
Thousands of homes across Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, the Yarra Yalley, South West Gippsland and Eastern Victoria were facing a third night without power on Saturday, with the suburbs Kilsyth, Ferntree Gully and The Basin worst affected.
Emerald resident and disability pensioner Mark Lockwood-Porter and his young family were forced to take refuge with relatives in Melbourne due to the outages as Mr Lockwood-Port needs a life support machine to sleep at night.
“I need a machine overnight basically to keep me alive because I have a brain injury and it stops me breathing when I fall asleep,” he said.
Although Mr Lockwood-Porter has a backup power battery for the breathing apparatus, it only has a short lifespan and his family can’t afford a generator big enough to power the whole house.
The father of one said he was too petrified to sleep on Thursday night when the power went out, and did not want to break curfew by moving his family until morning.
When he asked the energy provider for a lease generator, Mr Lockwood-Porter said he was refused. After being contacted by The Age, the supplier confirmed they would contact the Emerald man again to assist.
“We are contacting all our life support customers to manage each of their individual needs to assist them through this. Anyone with concerns should contact AusNet Services or DHHS,” a spokesman said.
Shadow state Minister for Energy and Renewables Ryan Smith criticised the Andrews government for the delay in restoring power to vulnerable residents.
“These basic requirements are the bare minimum that our government should provide, yet Daniel Andrews has failed to ensure we have water and power.”
A government spokeswoman reminded those affected by the outages that they were allowed to travel to family’s houses for assistance.
“Mr Lockwood-Porter has done the right thing for his safety,” she said. “We understand how difficult this is for the community particularly for those with special needs.”
The State Emergency Service has received more than 3100 calls for help since the storm hit, with 150 jobs completed on Saturday.
Energy providers have warned Sunday’s winds could delay restoring electricity to the remaining homes without power.
Thursday’s storm claimed the life of three people including four-year-old Ayan Kapoor who was was walking with his father and younger sister when he was hit by a falling tree in Blackburn South.
Get our Morning & Evening Edition newsletters
Ashleigh McMillan is a breaking news reporter at The Age. Got a story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachael Dexter is a breaking news reporter at The Age.