3 dead, hundreds of thousands affected as destructive storms hit Victoria, Australia


Destructive storms packing winds of up to 158 km/h (98 mph) wreaked havoc in Victoria, Australia, on Thursday, August 27, 2020, leaving at least three people dead. Power was disrupted to 95 000 households, while 250 000 homes were affected by possible water contamination. Almost 3 000 calls were made to the State Emergency Service (SES) for assistance as numerous trees were torn down and several properties were damaged.

Among the fatalities was a four-year-old boy, who was killed when a tree fell onto him in Blackburn South. The child sustained critical injuries and was taken to the hospital, but eventually passed away. 

The other two victims died in separate incidents of fallen trees. A 59-year-old man was killed after a tree crashed onto his car in Belgrave, while a 36-year-old woman lost her life in the same manner on the Maroondah Highway.

Australian national media 9News called the storms disastrous, noting that the trail of destruction may take months to clean up. A number of residents were trapped inside their houses as trees pummeled onto rooftops.

"This will be just a terrible time for them and our hearts are with you in any support that we can provide on what is a terribly difficult time, we stand ready to do that," said Premier Daniel Andrews as he expressed his condolences to the bereaved families.

The violent storms triggered blackouts to 56 000 households. About 95 000 homes lost power overnight. 250 000 homes are unable to drink from taps due to possible water contamination.

"We've become aware of a potential water quality issue affecting 88 suburbs due to electrical damage caused by storms overnight," said Yarra Valley Water.

"Some water may have entered our drinking water supply network that had not been treated to the usual standard."

The SES accommodated nearly 3 000 calls for help, most of them were about fallen trees while the rest was due to property damage.

Wilsons Promontory bore the brunt of the harsh winds, recording wind speeds of 158 km/h (98 mph), followed by 124 km/h (77 mph) at Mount Gellibrand and 122 km/h (76 mph) at Yanakie, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) confirmed.

The worst-affected areas include Mount Evelyn, Belgrave, Croydon, Lilydale, and Mount Waverly.

At Melbourne, the wind gusts reached up to 95 km/h (59 mph)– the strongest since late 2019. 

According to BOM, a cold front swept across southern Victoria on Thursday evening, bringing severe storms and destructive winds to the state.

"The clean-up continues after last night's winds, but that weather system has now moved offshore," it updated on Friday, August 28.

The weather is forecast to be dry and sunny on Saturday, August 29, before another cold front on Sunday, August 30.

Featured image credit: SES

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