Thousands of Sydney homes could be without electricity for a fifth straight day after storms damaged power lines, as a union claims job cuts have depleted the number of frontline power workers.
Network operator Ausgrid says 700 crews have been working to replace severed lines and broken poles after Tuesday’s severe storms but warned customers to “prepare to outages lasting well into the weekend”.
By 8am on Saturday, 9550 residential and business customers on Sydney’s north shore and northern beaches remained without electricity.
Power had been restored to about 42,500 customers.
Further complicating the issue, Ausgrid says it had come across many homes where the customer’s connection to the network – such as at the front of a house or a private power pole – had been significantly damaged.
Fresh crews have arrived this morning from @essentialenergy, @endeavourenergy and our Newcastle teams to help restoration in Sydney’s northern suburbs. As at 11:00am power is out to 9,000 homes and businesses in the hardest hit areas. pic.twitter.com/UzGDdo6iRT
— Ausgrid (@Ausgrid) November 30, 2019
It said regulations prevented its staff from repairing customer equipment past the connection point, and urged those affected to contact a qualified electrician to repair damage to their own equipment.
“Once repaired, Ausgrid can safety reconnect them to the shared network,” a statement on Saturday said.
NSW Police has opened the Public Information and Inquiry Centre.
Members of the public were asked to check on friends or neighbours who “might be vulnerable and in need of assistance,” a statement from NSW Police said on Friday night.
Map of Sydney homes that have been without power for two days because of a five-minute storm pic.twitter.com/YPFT8vruAE
— Byron Kaye (@byronkaye) November 28, 2019
Ausgrid previously said the cyclone-like damage was some of the worst it has seen in a concentrated area.
But the Electrical Trades Union said the length of the large-scale blackout highlights the impact of job cuts, and claimed the workforce of NSW’s three electricity distributors had been slashed by 40 per cent.
“Ausgrid alone has seen approximately 2000 jobs go with another 315 people made redundant earlier this year,” union secretary Justin Page said in a statement.
The number of crews available directly impacts the speed of repairs, he said.
“If you have a much smaller workforce, the time the public is left without power greatly increases,” Mr Page said.
Hey Ausgrid can anyone explain why we have to wait 5 days to have this branch removed and power restored ?
2100, Allambie hts pic.twitter.com/wrKF8hPrV6
— left in the dark (@iino_regretsii) November 28, 2019
Ausgrid has been contacted for comment on the union’s claim.
People relying on a continuous power supply for medical or life support equipment have been advised to relocate.
State Emergency Service regional operations director Paul Bailey said crews were doing “absolutely everything they can” to clear affected areas.
“I do understand these are very trying circumstances for people – being without power is a very difficult thing and I know that everybody is doing their best to fix that,” Mr Bailey told reporters in Sydney.