Australia extreme heatwave: power outages in Melbourne amid ‘load shedding’ – as it happened
And that’s a wrap. Thanks for sticking with us throughout day. A reminder that there are still dozens of bushfires burning in Tasmania and Victoria. Authorities have warned people not to be complacent.
An emergency warning is still in place for communities near a fire at Timbarra, in Victoria’s Gippsland region. The fire there has grown in size from 300ha to 4,000ha and it is now too late for locals to leave.
There are six emergency warnings in place in Tasmania. Those cover locations including: Castle Forbes Bay, Geeveston, Port Huon, Cairns Bay and Waterloo; Waddamana, Hilltop and Penstock Lagoon; Bronte Park Area, Pine Tier Lagoon and London Lakes; Shannon; Lake Echo and surrounds; and Liawenee.
Much of southern Tasmanian, including Hobart, is covered a red, smoky haze.
The other big story of the day, of course, was the fact that about 200,000 homes across Victoria were hit by power blackouts. You can expect the political argy to roll on on that one for the next few days.
With that, I’ll leave you. Have a nice weekend and if you’re in a bushfire-affected area, stay safe.
Thomas Parkes (@_thomasparkes)
Jenny Weber (@JennyowlWeber)
Eerie Tasmania, a thick blanket of smoke has covered south east towns with ash falling at Taroona, Kingston and Blackmans Bay. Thank you to the firefighters, you are everyone’s heroes. #climatechange #politas #Tasmania pic.twitter.com/c3XwuMm6C3
Leah Galvin (@leah_galvin)
Daniel Miles (@danielmiles)
The Timbarra fire has a 10km smoke column capable of producing its own lightning, @BOM_Vic says. Some firefighters have been moved away for safety reasons. Fire stretches 300 hectares, has 125 members involved in asset protection @abcmelbourne
Victoria’s emergency services minister, Lisa Neville, says the Timbarra community may be living with the current fire for weeks to come. The fire was 300ha this morning. Over the day it has spread to cover 4000ha.
We have a community who continues to do it very tough today. The Timbarra community, that whole region, which is living with the fire at the moment, a very active and dangerous fire. They had a really tough few days since the fire took off, and they are probably going to face this fire in their landscape for many weeks to come. The message I have right now is that it is still very early in the day. Please do not be complacent.
Victoria’s emergency services commissioner, Andrew Crisp, is addressing the media.
He’s talking about the fire at Timbarra, which is the most dangerous of the fires burning across Victoria.
Crisp says the fire has been burning since 16 January and residents have been provided advice about the need to activate their bushfire plans since then.
Three people have made it to a relief centre at Buchan, but Crisp says authorities believe other locals have “made other arrangements”.
Earlier today, the CFA warned people it was too late to leave the area and that they should take immediate steps to survive.
“The fire is a dangerous fire,” Crisp says. “We’ve had to move fire fighters out of that particular area until things settle down.”
“The change is not expected to go through there until the evening.”
Thanks to Naaman for briefly taking over. Luke Henriques-Gomes back with you now.
Amy Hall (@amyjrh)
My dad just sent me these photos of the sky in Hobart. He woke up this morning to the smell of smoke in the house and said the conditions are reminiscent of the devastating 1967 bushfires #tasfires pic.twitter.com/adntWtbabk
.@TasFireService has issued a Bushfire Watch and Act Message for Steppes. There is a bushfire at Great Pine Tier, Central Plateau that may put Steppes at high risk within 2 to 6 hours. More info at https://t.co/TfGw8mFoE1 and https://t.co/jks9RaBYqx #tasfires pic.twitter.com/69ZTpZxHJs
D’Ambrosio has sung the praises of Victoria’s renewable energy during the heatwave, saying it was coal and thermal generators that failed the state.
“We lost 1800 megawatts of power capacity generation in Victoria,” she said. “That is an extraordinary figure to lose. Essentially most of that was as a result of failed infrastructure from coal and gas units – in particular coal.
“People should be rightly disappointed that the power grid was not up to the stakes today…we have a 20th century energy system, for a 21st century climate.
“The fact is our thermal generators are ageing, they are becoming less and less reliable. Wind power came through today – it produced sufficient power generation. Our large batteries were available last night when we needed them the most. Renewable energy is the way of the future and the here and now.”
She did also apologise to Victorians for the outages.
“The market operator had to make the decision to minimise the impact of [the failures]”, she said. “At 12 oclock today they directed load shedding distributed fairly across the state.”
150,000 Victorians had they power supply taken off “for a very short period of time”, she said.
In Melbourne, the Victorian energy minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, is explaining why load shedding happened earlier today.
She says the state suddenly lost 1,800 megawatts of power – mostly due to failed coal plants – which created a 250 megawatt gap.
Supply was low, and demand increased as people tried to keep cool. Aemo then decided to load shed until the cool change came.
“This morning Aemo advised we had more than sufficient power to meet all of our needs. The situation changed very very quickly.
“The extreme heat continued to remain with us and demand continued to increase to unanticipated levels. That caused greater stress on our existing thermal generators … That came on top of the fact we los three coal generators in the La Trobe valley.
“The market operator did what their job is, and decided there was an actual gap in energy supply to meet that continually rising demand.”
Tasmanians are being reminded that the state has a total fire ban extending over the entire Australia Day long weekend.
Some other ways to look at those record-breaking temperatures yesterday.
According to weather researcher Maximiliano Herrera, Port Augusta’s 49.5C is the highest temperature recorded at a coastal location in the southern hemisphere.
On Wednesday, Red Rocks Point in WA reached 49.1C. The measuring station is only 70m from the ocean, which potentially makes it the hottest temperature ever recorded so close to the sea.
Bob Henson (@bhensonweather)
Australia has just seen the world’s hottest temperature recorded next to open ocean: 120.4°F (49.1°C), less than a block from the sea. https://t.co/fuEUt3Yqju
Back to that press conference. Emergency services have warned that the cool change will create a change in wind direction – placing more people at risk.
If you are near a fire, be aware that the front could shift overnight.
Fire services have 30 aircraft across the state, and up to 700 people at work.
A police spokesman says: “Leave early before the need is there, ensure there is a planned route and travel slowly.”
Two fires have worsened – residents of Wilburville and Flintstone may be at high risk within 2 to 6 hours.
Both are now at Watch and Act.
. @tasfireservice has upgraded the Emergency Warning for Flinstone from ‘Advice’ to ‘Watch and Act’. There is a bushfire at Great Pine Tier, Central Plateau that may put Flintstone at high risk within the next 2-6 hours. More info at https://t.co/IaDvpThtIT #tasfires pic.twitter.com/4QuurU5wdi
.@TasFireService has issued a Bushfire Watch and Act Message for Wilburville. There is a bushfire at Great Pine Tier, Central Plateau that may put Wilburville at high risk within 2 to 6 hours. More info at https://t.co/5HQddyRCbQ and https://t.co/jks9RaBYqx #Tasfires pic.twitter.com/PyZJwAk9wm
The bureau of meteorology also adds that the fire danger remains high.
While temperatures are now dropping, the wind is picking up, meaning the risk is still as high as ever.
“While conditions are easing, the fire danger remains high for the moment,” a spokesman said. “As the temperature drop the winds are peaking – that is keeping the fire danger up.”
There are “cooler conditions and a slight easing of the winds” forecast overnight, but the danger will remain.
There is not a lot of rain forecast for tomorrow – only a couple of millimetres. Tasmania’s fire chief also warned that “severe conditions will now move on to the east coast from now on”.
Tasmanian emergency services are giving a press conference now. The topline is that conditions remain severe, and many fires are still posing a threat.
Tasmania’s fire chief says there are still 56 active fires in Tasmania, with 30 uncontained.
“Thirty of them still going, that means they are not contained, and they will be breaking their containment lines tonight,” he said.
“It remains hot, windy and the fuels remain incredibly dry in this state right now. We have a long way to go. Do not underestimate the situation we are in. We can’t let our guard down.”
In Victoria, there is a house fire at Taylor Court, Colac. The fire is contained but an advice warning has been issued for Colac, Colac West, Colac East.
In Tasmania, the Zeehan Highway is closed. People looking to evacuate must travel via Strahan.
People travelling from Zeehan to the evacuation centre at Queenstown Basketball Stadium must travel via Strahan, rather than the Zeehan Highway. The Zeehan Highway is currently closed due concerns about smoke and embers. #tasfires
Hello everyone, Naaman Zhou here taking over from Luke for a short while.
This WATCH & ACT message is being issued for Buchan and Buchan South.
Firefighters have been unable to stop the spread of the fire. Staying in the Buchan township is the safest option as conditions can change suddenly. https://t.co/OudisC53fJ pic.twitter.com/QtEHkItHnE
. @TasFireService has issued a Bushfire Emergency Warning for Zeehan with residents being advised to leave NOW & head south to the evacuation centre at the Queenstown Basketball Stadium, The Esplanade Queenstown. Go to https://t.co/ubRj7IgdWA for more information #tasfires #alert pic.twitter.com/AuAkD1Vdts