Storm-hit areas need our full support

Storm-hit areas need our full support

17th June 2021 Off By adpublisher

Lockdowns may be the main topic of conversation for most Melburnians, but many people living outside the city are still suffering from the impact of last week’s extreme weather. For them, not having to wear a mask outdoors will offer little reprieve.

Distribution company AusNet Services has told some of its customers in the Dandenongs they should prepare to be without power for another three weeks. And Yarra Valley Water has confirmed that more than 700 households are likely to be without drinking water for several days in Kallista, Sherbrooke and The Patch. About 100 homes have been assessed as uninhabitable, while many more have been badly damaged.

A woman is rescued from her house after a tree landed on it, causing significant damage.Credit:Joe Armao

Residents in those areas hit hardest cannot recall a night of wild winds quite like it. The Victoria State Emergency Service says it was its busiest ever week, with many thousands of calls for help across the state. Two people were killed.

Victoria’s emergency management centre has warned Melburnians, who are free to travel into regional Victoria from Friday, not to visit areas battered by the floods and storms. With rain and winds of up to 60km/h forecast for Gippsland on Friday and Saturday, there are concerns trees already buffeted by floods and strong winds could cause more damage, and potentially worse.

It has been a challenging 18 months for Victorians. The bushfires over the summer of 2019-20 were the most devastating to hit the state since Black Saturday more than a decade ago. While this country has been spared the worst of the pandemic, Victoria had one of the longest lockdowns in the world and the highest death toll in Australia.

These latest wild weather conditions only add to the challenges. It’s important that those who have had their livelihoods disrupted again are not forgotten. Being told to stay at home is one thing, but having a tree fall or flooding that ruins your car, business or home is quite another.

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After the clean-up is complete, there should also be time to assess how the emergency authorities and essential service providers responded to the extreme weather. While they have helped many thousands in this time of need, there have been some shortcomings: flood warnings sent out after the waters had already risen, towns remaining isolated for days without phone reception, cutting off access to triple zero, and messages sent out offering false hope that power supplies would be returned.

And an energy emergency has been declared for the Yallourn coal mine and power station in Gippsland, which was forced to drop its output last week because of the flooding. Floodwaters are threatening to breach the mine, which would take almost a quarter of the state’s power generation out of the network for several months.