SES members on their toes

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Emerald SES was faced with its busiest 24 hours in five years as severe winds shook the region on Sunday.

“We received more than 300 calls in a 24-hour period between Sunday and Monday mornings,” Emerald SES unit controller Ben Owen said.

“A large number of houses – about 40 to 50 – were significantly damaged, as well as community buildings like the Menzies Creek Primary School. One of their buildings was completely destroyed.

“From 2pm to 4pm on Sunday was the most horrific time, and winds were particularly bad up in The Hills. One house lost all of its tin roofing.

“We were called to three jobs labelled as ’threats to life’ including a tree that had fallen on a moving car in Gembrook. The driver was hospitalised but is now in a stable condition.”

Pakenham SES received more than 80 calls that day and the incidents were widespread – from Clyde to Berwick and down to Lang Lang.

One of the more serious jobs was a call to a car accident that occurred as a result of a fallen tree on Bald Hill Road near Seven Mile Road, Pakenham.

Pakenham SES member Matt Spiteri said some winds reached speeds up to 130km/h.

Two local teenagers were among the 20 people hospitalised across Victoria due to storm-related injuries when they were struck by a tree branch in Berwick about 2.30pm on Sunday. The branch also pulled down a power line.

Both were taken to Dandenong Hospital in a stable condition with head injuries.

Ambulance Victoria acting director of emergency management Justin Dunlop advised residents to take care when cleaning up damage caused by the storm.

“Already two people have been treated by paramedics and taken to hospital with injuries related to cleaning up damage from Sunday,” Mr Dunlop said.

“One man fell from the roof of a house, while another was injured using a chainsaw.

“People using ladders to get onto the roof need to take extreme care. Unfortunately, if you fall from a height like a ladder or a roof you risk serious or fatal injuries.

“If you are working alone, make sure you have a mobile phone so you can call for help if something goes wrong.”

It was estimated that about 15,000 customers from the shire lost power since Sunday’s storm, with about 12,000 of those customers from Berwick, Officer, Pakenham and Tynong, according to AusNet Services.

Spokesman Hugo Armstrong said there was no guarantee power would be restored today to those currently impacted.

“There are a lot of individual service wires down, so it’s going to take a long time to restore power to everyone affected,” Mr Armstrong said.

“The wires leading in to our Belgrave sub-station that services power to The Hills region were smashed by trees.

“We apologise for the delays. We recognise the inconvenience and appreciate your patience. We’ve had almost 500 wires go down across our network, and working day and night to get power back as quickly as we can.

“There’s no guarantee that power will be back today. I would advise those contemplating whether to stay or leave, to perhaps think about leaving as it may take a couple of days.”

Councillor Graeme Moore’s chicken coup was damaged after a tree on his Nar Nar Goon North property was uprooted by the strength of the winds.

“Luckily, the chooks were fine and our house was fine, that’s the main thing,” he said.

“But there were trees all over the roads. It was like a war zone.

“It was a hard day for council clean-up, too, particularly in The Hills area.”

Cardinia Shire Council operations co-ordinator Mark Howard said fallen trees blocked a number of roads and paths across the shire on Sunday.

The council received 52 calls continuing through to Monday morning and spent the day removing debris and clearing roads.

Mr Howard said Pooley Road in Nar Nar Goon had been closed between Tynong North Road and Mortimer Road when power lines had been brought to the ground.

The severe weather conditions also forced the 10-race Cranbourne Cup meeting to be called off after a single race when a 76km/h wind speed reading was detected on the track and was predicted to reach 110km/h.

Across the state, there were more than 3300 requests for emergency assistance including 2000 fallen trees, 1095 damaged buildings and 365 fallen power lines.

For updated information on unplanned power outages, visit http://www.outagetracker.com.au/outagemap or http://www.outagetracker.com.au/outagelist and search under “Unplanned”.

For emergency assistance, call the SES on 132 500. In a life-threatening situation, call triple-zero.

Originally published at Pakenham Gazette.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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