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Melbourne communities urged not to drink tap water potentially contaminated after storms

Wednesday June 16, 2021 - 02:19 AEST
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Drinking water arrived at The Patch earlier this morning. - ABC

Emergency water supplies have arrived in Melbourne's outer east for storm-affected residents, as stories of survival surface.

Yarra Valley Water has issued a directive for the towns of Kallista, Sherbrooke and The Patch to not to drink their tap water because of storm damage.

The water supplier anticipates the warning will be in place for at least three days.

The water should not be used for drinking, washing food, preparing baby formula or brushing teeth, and people should take special care not to ingest the water when bathing or showering.

Yarra Valley Water says boiling the water will not remove contaminants.

An emergency water tank has arrived at the town hall in The Patch and emergency bottled water is available at Kallista's town hall. Residents are being asked to bring their own containers to fill.

Several schools that were closed in the area have reopened today, while another will re-locate, the Department of Education has said.

Years 7 to 10 at Monbulk College will return to remote learning until repair work is completed.

Mount Dandenong Primary School will temporarily relocate to Gladesville.

Macclesfield and Olinda primary schools and senior years of Monbulk College will operate without power under their emergency management plans.

'Don't know what might have got into the water'

Yarra Valley Water managing director Pat McCafferty said about 700 properties were affected by the alert, which was due to equipment damage on the back of last week's severe weather. 

"We want to make sure everyone is safe," Mr McCafferty told ABC Radio Melbourne.

"We don't know what might have got into the water supply, if indeed anything did get in, so we don't take any risks when it comes to the quality of the water or the safety of it."

Mr McCafferty said Yarra Valley Water would test the water for the next two days.

The deadly storms responsible for the water directive hit Gippsland in the state's east and Melbourne's outer east last week but about 10,000 homes are still without power. 

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said almost 2,000 initial impact assessments had been completed by Tuesday afternoon and of those, 98 were uninhabitable.

Commissioner Crisp urged residents to remain vigilant and warned forecast wet weather for Victoria could see unstable trees fall across roads.

'Just tell us straight out what's happening'

Mount Dandenong resident Gail told ABC Radio Melbourne she "couldn't put it into words what it's been like".

She said the worst part about the past week had been the lack of communication.

"Don't tell us that at 12 o'clock on Sunday the power is going to be restored when there are power cords still hanging in trees and lying on the roads," she said.

"All of us are feeling the frustration because we aren't getting this information.

"How do you heal, how do you cope, when you live day-to-day and you've got no idea what's happening, just tell us straight out what's happening."

Gail said the morning after the storm last week she drove to Sherbrooke to make sure her daughter was safe.

"I rang her and I couldn't get through and I rang her husband and there was no answer and I said to my partner I've got to go, I've got to know she's safe," she said.

"When you're a parent you never lose that fear."

She said nothing could have prepared her for the fear she felt driving down streets that had trees suspended in mid-air, balancing on other branches right above her car.

"The road was devastated, when I found she was safe I couldn't even speak."

Woman lucky to be alive after brick wall fell on her 

Nick and Marilyn said nine trees, some a metre in diametre, fell on their home in Kalorama, which was now "a total write-off".

"They came down one after the other on top of each other," Marilyn told ABC Radio Melbourne.

Marilyn said she was lucky to escape the house alive after a brick wall fell on her back.

"My number wasn't up obviously. [My back] is healing but it's really awful to look at, I'm black," she said.

Nick said the storm took many residents by surprise because it hit the region from the east "which never happens".

"You can see corridors of houses that escaped [the storm]. One woman said she slept through the whole thing," he said.

The couple said it was likely they would never live on their property again because it would take too long and be too expensive to rebuild.

"If we were 20 years younger we might give it a go, but I don't want to live the next few years of my life fighting city hall," Marilyn said.


© ABC 2021

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