Much of south-west Victoria is without phone or internet this afternoon after a fire badly damaged the Telstra exchange in Warrnambool's Koroit Street.
The Warrnambool Telstra exchange is the hub for the south-west. With it off-line, the rest of the south-west is also without Telstra services including mobile telephones, internet connections and EFTPOS services.
The telco is providing updates via a service status page, and temporary infrastructure is being brought in to help with the restoration of services.
Temporary phone lines are been made available for Warrnambool Police Station (0481 389 783), Hamilton Police Station (0481 387 374) and Portland (0457 540 006).
Keep visiting this page for rolling updates on the situation.
4.35pm update: Two Satellite Cells On Wheels (COWs, see photo below) have arrived at Melbourne Airport after being flown from Sydney. They will arrive in Warrnambool in a few hours and will then be deployed to help restore mobile phone services.
The same technology was used by Telstra to restore mobile services following the Cyclone Yasi in 2011.
3.45pm: The Standard's photographers have been out and about and have put together some great shots of a town without connectivity.
3pm: A Mobile Exchange On Wheels (MEOW, see below image) has arrived in Warrnambool, allowing Telstra to start restoring fixed line phone and internet services. Technicians have also gained access to the town's fire-damaged phone exchange building.
The telco also reports basic mobile services have been restored to Coleraine and at Port Fairy.
2.15pm: Basic mobile services have been restored to Edenhope, some 225km north-west of Warrnambool.
The telco has also updated the list of affected areas: Port Fairy, Portland, Camperdown, Port Campbell, Edenhope, Dartmoor, Hamilton, Heywood & Allansford
1.45pm: Some good news from Telstra, but still no word on when full service will be restored.
1.30pm: Telstra has posted this shot of police picking up satellite phones from the telco's Global Operations Centre to be used in areas with no mobile coverage.
1pm: Loaned phones, a satellite dish and wireless internet have kept today's Warrnambool race meet on track, Matt Neal reports.
12.15pm: Optus has now said its landline services are also out of action.
Our fixed line services in Warrnambool are currently unavailable due to an Exchange fire earlier today. Engineers are working to fix ASAP— Optus (@Optus) November 22, 2012
Aussie Broadband has also contacted its customers to inform them its fixed line broadband is offline, although fixed wireless or microwave residential and business customers still have service.
11am: Warrnambool banks are in chaos this morning as a Telstra service outage has sent EFTPOS and computer systems offline.
- Bank of Melbourne: Warrnambool and Portland branches closed.
- South West Credit: Open, but with limited services.
- Westpac: Open, but with limited services.
- NAB: Warrnambool, Balmoral, Port Fairy, Portland, Casterton, Hamilton, Cobden, Timboon open.
- Commonwealth Bank: Open, but with limited services.
- ANZ: Open, but with limited services.
- People's Credit Union: Closed.
The town's police have also been forced to shift shop to the council building, which uses Optus services.
9am: Warrnambool Fire Brigade regional duty officer Paul Marshall said the situation began when the alarm was raised at 4.35am through an automatic alarm system at the Koroit Street exchange.
The first firefighters were on the scene in minutes but it took about an hour to bring the blaze under control.
The Warrnambool Telstra exchange is the hub for the south-west. With it off-line, the rest of the south-west is also without Telstra services including mobile telephones, internet connections and EFT-POS services.
Ambulance Victoria has advised that no triple-zero calls are able to be made via landlines, but calls can be made via mobile phones on any carrier.
''We urge people to check on their neighbours,'' the service said in a short statement this m
Mr Marshall said there had been extensive damage to the exchange and technicians in breathing apparatus were just starting to access the damage. He said it was unknown at this stage how long it will be before back-up services were in place and operating.
"At present we have Telstra technicians inside the building trying to access the damage," he said.
"We launched an internal attack on the fire with firefighters using breathing apparatus. There will be an investigation in the cause of the fire conducted during the day. At this stage the cause of the fire is not suspicious."
Mr Marshall said it was hoped that Telstra would be able to put in place temporary infrastructure from Melbourne - a portable exchange onsite.
"It is hoped that can all happen today and the mobile services can be up and running. The techs are also still accessing the damage and we are unsure if any of the existing infrastructure can be used."
"Fortunately Optus and Virgin mobile services have been unaffected. Hopefully in the next couple of hours Telstra may be able to get services going depending on the damage."
Mr Marshall said it seemed that everybody had been affected by the fire including emergency service personnel who were being forced to use Optus phones to communicate.
"The priority is to get everyone back on line," he said.