Storm Arwen: Thousands face an ‘exhausting’ fifth night in the darkon November 30, 2021 at 8:31 pm

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Thousands of homes in north-east England are braced for another night without heat or lighting.

Power pole down in Ambleside

Image source, Electricity North West

Thousands of people in the north-east of England are bracing themselves for a fifth night without power after Storm Arwen left infrastructure devastated.

Supplier Northern Powergrid said it had reconnected 90% of customers but that 20,000 households were still cut off.

It described the damage as “unprecedented” but said engineers were striving to reconnect customers.

Many more are also still dealing with power outages in Scotland and parts of north-west England.

Thousands in rural north-east Scotland, Perthshire, Angus and southern and central Scotland are awaiting reconnection.

The Energy Networks Association (ENA) has urged powerless customers to make alternative arrangements for accommodation, by staying with friends or family wherever possible.

The Met Office has predicted milder temperatures on Wednesday – but warned they would drop again on Wednesday night and winds would pick up.

Earlier, calls were made in the House of Commons for the Army to assist electricity engineers, as ministers came under fire for failing to update MPs on the impact of the storm.

MPs heard Northern Powergrid believes the damage is “more extensive than initially realised”, with Conservative MP for North West Durham Richard Holden warning some households are “potentially facing weeks without electricity”.

Power lines being repaired in Buxton

Image source, Electricty North West

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is “extremely sympathetic” to those affected.

“It must be appalling. I want to reassure everybody that we’re working as hard as we can to get power back to those homes,” he told a Covid briefing on Tuesday evening.

“All I can say is that the gusts were going at 100mph and, talking to the people who operate the grid, that there was nothing that they could do about it, but we are doing everything we can to restore power, talking to Northern Powergrid and everybody else to get that fixed.

“I appreciate it must be a very, very tough time for those homes that are currently without power.”

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng tweeted on Tuesday: “Today I met CEOs of the most impacted operators to ensure restoration is happening as quickly as possible and disrupted customers get support.

“Northern Powergrid, SSE, and Energy North West have received significant mutual aid from other operators to boost their efforts.

“Operators have reassured me they are doing all they can to prioritise the vulnerable and those who have been without power for a considerable period. We will remain in regular contact as the situation develops and stand ready to provide further assistance.”

Gemma Douglas, from West Allerdean, Northumberland, said she had “never seen anything like this” in her area.

“It has been exhausting trying to keep warm and cook – it’s hard work,” the 39-year-old project development officer said.

“Where we live, there is no back-up system, we’re on our own. So many people are without any help and it’s scary and worrying.”

Damage to power boxes

Image source, Northern Powergrid

Indra Rampersad van Boeckel from in Ford, Berwick-upon-Tweed, has been without power since Friday and witnessed her shed being crushed by a neighbouring tree.

“It’s heart-breaking really, it’s not easy even making a cup of tea on a stove,” the 42-year-old dentist said.

“We have burned our full stash of candles and had to get lots of extra supplies.

Jayme Yates-Bell, from Kendal, has diabetes and kidney failure and said the situation she faced was “really challenging”.

“We need to know how long we’re going to be like this,” she said.

“I’ve got a fridge with my medicine in that’s now probably useless.”

Jayme Yates-Bell

A spokesperson for the ENA said: “Supporting and reconnecting customers is our absolute priority and our customer teams are working around the clock to contact customers and keep them informed.

“We are also working with other utilities, local authorities, emergency services and the British Red Cross to support this effort.”

Northern Powergrid said customers would be eligible for compensation.

A payment of £70 per household had been set for the first 24 hours of power loss or 48 if conditions had been severe, as well as £70 for every additional 12-hour period without power.

However, payouts are capped at £700.

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