Landlines breakthrough but traders frustrations grow

TELSTRA technicians yesterday made a major breakthrough in repairs to the crippled Warrnambool communications exchange.

By early afternoon they were able to restore one-third of all residents' landlines.

There are now hopes that the majority of landline services can be restored by the end of the week. However, most ADSL customers will take longer because of severe damage to the equipment.

Telstra regional manager Bill Mundy said it was a significant achievement and he thanked the community for its patience.

Meanwhile, some Port Fairy traders are starting to feel the effects of the Telstra outage with businesses saying they have been left in the dark.

The blackout caused by the Telstra exchange fire continued to be felt in the tourist town with Port Fairy Traders' Association president Ken Brookes and his wife June saying they had been left with no answers.

"We're stuck in the mud," he said.

"It's starting to affect businesses. We haven't heard anything.

"In the normal circumstances we'd be getting a call every few minutes. We're reliant on it much more than we thought."

The couple own Brookes Hardware and Mrs Brookes said there hadn't been any meetings in Port Fairy to let people know what was going on.

"I'm cheesed off today," she said.

"No one has contacted us directly on how we should proceed.

"We can't do our orders. We can't do our wages. This is five days later and we haven't heard anything.

"Over the weekend people didn't have anything to spend or didn't want to spend in case they ran out of cash.

"We're a town which operates seven days a week."

Tourism officer Andrea Lowenthal from the Port Fairy Visitor Information Centre said she was concerned about interstate and overseas visitors who were not aware of why communication systems were down.

"It's been very quiet. We don't have a landline and we don't have the internet," she said.

"The thing I'm uncomfortable with is the inquiries from overseas and interstate, if they're not aware of why we're not responding. Obviously we will when we can. In the short term they might just go to Apollo Bay or Robe.

"A lot of people already have their bookings for Port Fairy Folk Festival so it's just filling in the gaps. Normally we'd be getting about 10 to 15 calls a day for Folkie.

"We're just hoping it will be back on sooner rather than later."

Port Fairy IGA owner Colin Clearey said sales were down because people didn't have any money to spend.

"We're still without EFTPOS and ATM," he said.

"We're struggling with internet.

"There's no word on when services would be restored."

The blackout caused few problems for If The Shoe Fits owner Michelle Mayo, with sales up for the weekend.

"We had a very big weekend," she said. "EFTPOS is back on. We did it the old-fashioned way with credit cards. It just shows how reliant we are on the internet.

"I think one of the biggest things has been not being able to contact people.

"In all seriousness, we survived. It's not as bad as it could be."

Port Fairy Sports and Toys owner Lorna Wilkinson said the store's EFTPOS was not working but its Tattslotto had not been greatly affected.

"We would like to know when our eftpos will be working or whether we may need an alternative plan," she said.

Tammy Aldridge from Belfast Bakery and Tea Rooms said the biggest inconvenience was for the customers.

"We don't have eftpos so it's just our landline that's been affected," she said.

NAB branch manager Julie Holcombe said the branch was up and running yesterday morning and the ATM was working.

The ANZ and Commonwealth Bank branches in Port Fairy were open and the ATMs were working.

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