‘Like a lightning flash’

A sudden flare of light was the first sign of trouble before an electricity flashover at a Morwell terminal stripped 80,000 homes of power across Gippsland on Friday.

The flashover, caused by high voltage power lines falling onto low voltage power lines, occurred at an SP AusNet terminal station acting as a distribution conduit for the Gippsland region.

Traralgon resident Adam Field, who witnessed the event, said he saw a quick flash in the trees before he started recording the flashover from about 7.30am.

“First it was just like a lightning flash, so the whole sky lit up blue and there was a series of five smaller explosions, I’m not sure where they came from,” Mr Field said.

He continued to drive down Monash Way towards Morwell and saw power lines on the ground outside the terminal station.

“I just saw the explosions and came down the road a bit further on and saw the lines on the ground,” Mr Field said.

“There was no immediate danger to anyone, it was set back in the paddock so I got out of the way and kept going.”

In Morwell, traffic lights on the corner of Bridle Road and Princes Drive and Monash Way and Princes Drive failed for about an hour, and required police to redirect traffic.

Shortly after the incident, a road block was placed at Monash Way and Commercial Road intersection through to the roundabout where Commercial Road and Hazelwood Drive meet.

United Firefighters Union secretary Peter Marshall said the flashover could have been caused by a failure to clean up ash on power lines following the Hazelwood mine fire.

SP AusNet spokesman Jonathon Geddes said cleaning had been conducted at the site after the mine fire.

Mr Geddes said an investigation was underway into the cause of the power line’s failure.

“There’s no indication as yet; essentially the power lines fell onto other electrical assets that led to the power being cut for protection purposes and that saw the power outage for approximately 80,000 customers,” Mr Geddes said.

“Our primary response was to restore that power supply as quickly as possible for our customers and we managed to do that in approximately three hours.”

A CFA spokesperson said the flashover caused some smouldering around the fallen power lines.

Gippsland Trades and Labour Council president John Parker said the union was always concerned about electrical maintenance in the area and the public had the right to know what happened once the investigation into the incident was complete.

 For footage of the event, visit The Express’ Facebook page at  www.facebook.com/latrobevalleyexpress