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Morwell power line explosions

80,000 people across Gippsland were without electricity after power lines came down at Morwell's Terminal Station.

PT0M32S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-362nw 620 349

Almost all of the 80,000 customers who lost power when loud explosions rocked the town of Morwell in Victoria’s east on Friday morning have been reconnected.

A spokesman for power company SP AusNet said 89 customers around Morwell remained without power on Friday afternoon, with all expected to be reconnected by 5pm.

“Essentially we had power back to almost all customers by 10.30am this morning.”

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The smoke and ‘cracking’ noise that could be seen and heard from kilometres away around 7.30am this morning was caused by a “flashover” after power lines came down outside and inside the Morwell Terminal Station.

A SP AusNet spokesman said the live power lines hit the power station, causing the smoke and ‘cracking’.

A Country Fire Authority spokeswoman said about half a kilometre of high-voltage power lines came down on Commercial Road, Morwell, starting a small grassfire.

The fallen lines also caused a major “trip” at a substation, causing the power outage, she said.

The spokeswoman said she could not comment on the explosion.

Traralgon resident Adam Field was travelling on Monash Way near the Morwell terminal station about 7.30am when he saw a bright light shining down on the road.

“We were coming around the corner, and thought ‘shit, that’s a really bright light,’ and it kept getting brighter and brighter,” he said.

“It looked like a floodlight, or a big spotlight pointing down at the road.”

After pulling over to the side of the road, Mr Field watched about five explosions, which he described as looking like “ground-level lightning”.  

“It’s definitely not like anything I’ve seen before,” he said.

“It almost looked like Morwell was under attack.”

Mohammad Aldeen, professor of electrical and electronic engineering at the University of Melbourne, said an event such as this was “highly unusual” and likely to be caused by power lines touching conductive material.

“What I saw in the clips was something very substantial,” he said.

“If a flash had of happened in a vegetation area, if there was a high risk of bushfire, or if it was in a town centre, then there would have been a high chance of injury to personnel.”

Professor Aldeen said the brightness and duration of the flashes suggested they came from “very high-voltage” power lines.

He said rot or damage to wooden power poles was the likely cause of lines coming down, but could not think of a reason for lines to come down inside the substation because poles there were made from steel.

-with Benjamin Millar