Victoria’s flood-battered east is in for more rain this week, with fears the cracked mine that fuels the Yallourn power station faces further damage.
The power station in east Gippsland normally provides about a quarter of Victoria’s power.
On Tuesday afternoon, Emergency Services Commissioner Andrew Crisp said up to 20,000 homes could be waiting days until power is restored.
While most are expected to have power restored by the weekend, Mr Crisp cannot guarantee that the work will be done by Sunday.
“Our distribution businesses are working as hard as they can to get those properties back on as soon as they can,” he said.
“Even though most of them should be on by the weekend, there’s every chance some won’t be because they might be at the actual end of the line and it will take more time.”
Mr Crisp warned “we are not through this”, with ongoing concerns about potential flooding at the Yallourn coal mine.
Its output has fallen from about 1500 megawatts to just 200 megawatts this week as the cracks are closely monitored.
The mine has been evacuated because – in a worst-case scenario – it could be flooded.
“It’s a dynamic situation, we could have something that could mean a flood inside the mine that could happen with very little notice,” Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said on Monday.
More cracks appeared in the mine overnight near the Morwell river diversion. Operator Energy Australia is seeking to relieve the water pressure, including by diverting water from the river.
“All those workers have been evacuated and will remain evacuated until there’s confidence the area is safe to work on,” she said.
She said there were no threats to sufficient power across Victoria as yet.
Executive general manager of network management at AusNet, Steven Neave, said the situation was being monitored.
“We have a transmission tower in the vicinity so we’re inspecting and making sure the tower is OK,” he told Melbourne radio 3AW on Monday.
About 17,000 properties on the AusNet network remain without power after last week’s heavy storms. The bulk are in the Dandenong Ranges area in communities including Olinda, Monbulk and Belgrave.
Most will have power back on by week’s end, authorities say.
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp confirmed 98 homes have been deemed uninhabitable, with another 84 significantly damaged.
Of the nearly 9000 requests for assistance amid the floods, most due to trees falling or building damage, less than 100 call-outs are outstanding.
But Mr Crisp said rain would return to the Latrobe Valley from Wednesday and continue until the weekend.
This could cause major issues for flood-affected communities and prompt the upgrading of flooding at numerous rivers, including the Latrobe River.
Moderate flooding is still occurring along the Latrobe north of Traralgon.
“Given we’ve already got extremely saturated ground and flooding in particular areas, there’s a very real chance we’ll move from minor to moderate and in some areas from moderate to major flooding,” Mr Crisp said.
Mr Crisp said a number of different agencies were continuing to work together to clear roads and fix damaged poles and transformers.
Insurance claims skyrocket
Insurer Suncorp has fielded about 3750 claims from customers, mostly for property damage since winds of up to 125km/h and heavy rain lashed the state from Wednesday night.
The insurer, which has brands AAMI, Apia and GIO, said claim numbers were expected to rise for weeks.
Suncorp chief executive Steve Johnston said staff were in Traralgon and meeting affected customers.
Traralgon, in the Latrobe Valley, is one of the hardest-hit areas.
Two people have died since storms lashed state
Victoria has been lashed by gusty winds of up to 125km/h and heavy rainfall since Wednesday night, and two people have died in the dangerous conditions.
A young woman was on Friday found in a vehicle in floodwaters at Glenfyne, 200 kilometres south-west of Melbourne, and a man’s body was found in his submerged car at the Gippsland town of Woodside on Thursday.
Two State Emergency Service volunteers were hospitalised during recovery work, one with a broken shoulder blade and the other a broken wrist.
Emergency assistance funded by the Commonwealth and state government assists those with damaged properties with grants of up to $42,250.