Warrnambool fire chaos can't stop The Standard

WHEN Warrnambool was plunged into chaos by a fire at a Telstra exchange this week, the local newspaper became more important than ever.

However most people were probably too rushed to spare a thought for how it would get made with the paper's computer system affected.

The fire left banks in crisis, ATMs and EFTPOS machines out of action and much of the town without phone or internet access.

Like nearly everybody else in Warrnambool, the team behind The Standard were initially panicked.

But despite “extreme stress” in the newsroom on Thursday morning, the paper hit the stands as planned after several staff drove to Ballarat and set up temporary office at The Courier.

Using the three Optus mobile phones they had in the office, and by physically ferrying stories and photos more than 150km from Warrnambool to Ballarat, The Standard team managed to get the paper to the printers only 59 minutes later than usual.

Editor Steve Kelly said it was a phenomenal result given the circumstances.

“It hasn’t been a picnic getting The Standard out for you the readers and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any easier in the short-term,” he told readers in today’s edition.

“But at a time like this, we understand that the newspaper becomes even more of an essential service than usual.

“So take it from me, it’s going to be there for you every day except Sundays - just like it has been for the past 140 years.”

Telstra technicians were last night working around the clock to restore full mobile coverage to the Warrnambool region.

Approximately 65 per cent of 60,000 affected customers had their mobile phones back up and running at 6pm last night, however Telstra said it would still be a number of days before landlines and home internet connections were re-established.