Thousands of Sydney homes could be without electricity for a fifth straight day after storms damaged power lines, as a union claims job cuts have depleted
the number of frontline power workers.
Network operator Ausgrid says 700 crews have been working to replace severed lines and broken poles after Tuesday's severe storms but warned customers
to "prepare to outages lasting well into the weekend".
By 8am Saturday, 9550 residential and business customers on Sydney's north shore and northern beaches remained without electricity. Power had been restored
to about 42,500 customers.
Further complicating the issue, Ausgrid says it had come across many homes where the customer's connection to the network - such as at the front of a house
or a private power pole - had been significantly damaged.
It said regulations prevented its staff from repairing customer equipment past the connection point, and urged those affected to contact a qualified electrician
to repair damage to their own equipment.
"Once repaired, Ausgrid can safety reconnect them to the shared network," Ausgrid said in a statement.
Sydney residents still in the dark
Residents along Sydney’s North Shore will spend another night in darkness after Tuesday’s cyclonic storm caused power outages that could still be days
away from being restored.
NSW Police has opened the Public Information and Inquiry Centre. Members of the public were asked to check on friends or neighbours who "might be vulnerable
and in need of assistance," police said.
Ausgrid previously said the cyclone-like damage was some of the worst it has seen in a concentrated area.
But the Electrical Trades Union said the length of the large-scale blackout highlights the impact of job cuts, and claimed the workforce of NSW's three
electricity distributors had been slashed by 40 per cent.
"Ausgrid alone has seen approximately 2000 jobs go with another 315 people made redundant earlier this year," union secretary Justin Page said.
The number of crews available directly impacts the speed of repairs, he said. "If you have a much smaller workforce, the time the public is left without
power greatly increases," Mr Page said. Ausgrid has been contacted for comment on the union's claim.
People relying on a continuous power supply for medical or life support equipment have been advised to relocate.
State Emergency Service regional operations director Paul Bailey said crews were doing "absolutely everything they can" to clear affected areas.
"I do understand these are very trying circumstances for people - being without power is a very difficult thing and I know that everybody is doing their
best to fix that," Mr Bailey said.