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Roundup: Aussie homes still without power after statewide blackouts in South Australia

Xinhua, September 29, 2016 Adjust font size:

Millions of Australians are slowly regaining electricity in the state of South Australia on Thursday morning, following a vicious storm cell which knocked out the state's power supply late Wednesday afternoon.

South Australia - including its capital city Adelaide - was plunged into darkness at around 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, after a "one in 50 year" weather event swept across the state. More than 80,000 lightning strikes were recorded across South Australia, causing damage to more than 20 power lines and other pieces of vital infrastructure.

On Thursday, local media reported that up to 100,000 homes were still without power nearly 18 hours after it was knocked out, while it has been reported that the emergency services phone line "Triple-0" (Australia's "9-1-1") is also offline.

Bad weather is expected to continue to batter the state on Thursday; the South Australia weather bureau's Jenny Horvat told The Advertiser an intense low pressure system would continue to move across parts of the state including Adelaide.

"Associated with that low pressure system we're expecting more rainfall and intense winds," Horvat said.

Power had reportedly been restored to around 90 percent of the state's homes by Thursday morning, after 22 power stations were knocked out by thousands of lightning strikes.

South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill said the state's power stations were devastated by the unprecedented storm.

"It's estimated that around 80,000 lightning strikes hit Adelaide and South Australia over the course of the last period, some of them hit our electricity infrastructure, including our generators," Weatherill said late on Wednesday evening.

"This is also making the job of turning the power back on extremely hazardous and difficult."

Despite the apparent freak nature of the storm, some politicians have moved the question the role that an inconsistent renewable energy platform had on the state's supply.

Around 40 percent of the state's power comes from solar panels and wind farms - which stopped working when the gusts became too fast - and Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg blamed the blackouts on the state's "over-reliance" on renewable energy.

"(The blackout) does raise questions for the stability of the (renewable energy) system - not just for supply, because when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining, electricity is not being generated - but also for the stability of the system," Frydenberg said late on Wednesday.

"Questions are raised by the virtue of the increasing amount of renewables, but it has to be underlined that this was a weather event which led to this occurrence."

However Weatherill rubbished the claim, saying no other state could have dealt with such a rare and ferocious weather event.

"This was a weather event not a renewable energy event... lightning strikes and wind surges caused this," he said.

"Right now we are in the middle of it and preparing people for the next episode."

South Australia's Opposition Leader Steven Marshall joined the chorus of complaints, and said the state's residents were furious, demanding clear answers from the government.

"South Australians are angry and so am I," Marshall said, "It's outrageous that the state Labor government thinks it's okay for 1.7 million people to lose power when a couple of power lines go down."

Independent Senator from South Australia Nick Xenophon labelled the state-wide blackout a "disgrace" and said an independent inquiry should be arranged to make sure it does not happen again.

"The best thing to do now finally power is coming back on in some parts of the state is for the energy commission to look into this," he said. Endit