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As the massive clean-up gets under way in the aftermath of the Queensland floods, the nation’s major telcos are facing staggering bills and indeterminate repair time.

As the massive clean-up gets under way in the aftermath of the Queensland floods, the nation’s major telcos are facing staggering bills and indeterminate repair time.

In the wake of the disaster, tens of thousands of people have been left without mobile, landline or Internet after the catastrophic floods impacted on infrastructure and caused power outages knocking out communications.

As the floodwaters retreat, Telstra and Optus have begun damage assessments amid efforts to restore communications.

However early signs show that all major telcos face a mammoth task and hefty bill to repair the damage.

Telstra’s corporate affairs manager for Queensland, Elouise Campion, says Telstra technicians are continuing to work on restoration of services.

“We are working hard to restore services to flood-affected areas of the State and have over 100 technicians mobilised from across Australia to assist. Some areas are still unsafe to access but we are monitoring and will restore them as soon as possible,” she says.

Campion says communication services in Brisbane should be restored within a few days, but central and western Queensland are facing a wait of up to 18 days without services.

Many mobile base stations and telephony exchanges have been powered by battery backups and diesel generators since the floods struck, but restricted access to many sites has hampered much of the recovery effort.

Telstra says it has 262 telephony exchanges which have been declared “red zones”, meaning the affected areas are currently a “no-go” for Telstra technicians tasked to repair the damage.

Optus director of fixed engineering Noel Jarrett said the damage to the flood-affected regions is a disaster is on a much greater scale than the Victorian Black Friday bushfires in 2009. “From a network infrastructure point of view, this is far worse than the Victorian bushfires,” he said.

He told Communications Day that Optus had more than 100 network operatives working “incredibly long hours” in the area, and was also redeploying staff from the southern states.

Telstra has deployed an extra 130 technicians to reconnect sites where possible against odds including dealing with police escorts, crime scenes, and the local wildlife – even red-bellied black snakes.

Telstra has committed up to $1 million in donations to the flood relief fund while Optus has pledged $225,000.

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