Storm Arwen: Army called in after a week without poweron December 3, 2021 at 10:42 am

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Troops will arrive in Durham later as thousands remain without electricity a week after Storm Arwen.

Army troops in the snow outside a house

The Army has been called in to help as thousands of people in the north of England remain without electricity a week after Storm Arwen struck.

About 6,000 Northern Powergrid (NP) and 1,700 Electricity North West (ENWL) customers in Cumbria have no supply.

Durham County Council said more than 100 personnel would arrive in the county later.

It said it asked for help because NP had been “unable to confirm when supplies will be restored”.

The authority has declared a major incident with supplies to thousands of properties in areas including Teesdale and Weardale still off.

Military personnel were drafted in to help the recovery effort in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

Joanne Wiig trying to keep warm in the dark

Speaking in the Commons, Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron called for the Army to also assist engineers in Cumbria.

ENWL said earlier in the week the company had drafted in specialist power engineers from elsewhere in the country.

But spokesperson Paul Bircham said he was “not sure the Army have the engineering capability to work on high voltage electricity networks”.

“However, the more people we can have on the ground checking on everybody, that is something that is very welcome,” he said.

ENWL said it was hoping to restore all supplies by Friday.

Dr Lily Fulton-Humble

Dr Lily Fulton-Humble, from Alnwick, Northumberland, said NP “could have admitted early on that they were in over their head”.

“There could have been myriad ways to deal with this with a little bit of imagination,” she said.

“I understand that they had to deal with horrendous circumstances.

“But, in the first instance, they needed to hold their hands up and say we can’t deal with this and we need more resources, we need the public’s help, we need engineers’ help.

“There would have been queues of volunteers wanting to do their bit.”

Joanne Wiig and Ann Randall with a hot drink at the community centre

Nurse Joanne Wiig, who lives in Harbottle in Northumberland, is without electricity, hot water and phone signal and has been forced to sleep in her living room to keep warm.

“I burst into tears I’m not ashamed to say,” she said.

“You can only take so much.”

Her neighbour, Ann Randall, said she was worried about how people would call the emergency services without a phone signal.

“How is someone going to get hold of an ambulance?” she said

“You are going to have dead people out in the villages.”

A Durham County Council spokesperson said soldiers based in St John’s Chapel in Weardale, would be carrying out “door-to-door visits to check on residents’ wellbeing and ensure that any help and support is provided where needed”.

They will give residents updates on work to restore the power supply and identify where additional support is required.

Local authority staff, County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, Durham Police, the Mountain Rescue Service and Northumbrian Water have been providing support, along with other volunteers, the council said.

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