Storm Arwen: Homes without power for 12 days is ‘best estimate’

The electricity supplier for the North East has warned that some homes will still be without power on Wednesday – 12 days after Storm Arwen struck.

Northern Powergrid (NP) said its “best estimate” was that all of its 6,600 customers still off would be connected by Thursday.

Earlier, a major incident was declared in Northumberland and the Army was drafted in to County Durham for help.

In Cumbria, 1,300 households were without electricity on Friday evening.

Regulator Ofgem has launched an “urgent” review into the energy network companies’ response to the widespread cuts.

Jim Cardwell, head of policy development at NP, said it had restored connections to about 98% of its customers since the storm knocked out supplies to hundreds of thousands of homes across the north of England on 26 November.

“We’ve allocated 700 engineering projects to get people back on,” he told BBC Look North. “Two hundred of those projects will be taking place up until Sunday with the other 500 to come.

“Our best estimate is that will take until the end of Wednesday for those 500 projects.”

In response to criticism of NP’s communication, he vowed it would “start publishing information on our website, sending text messages and, where we have a community presence, giving out information locally”.

He added: “We don’t want any distractions from getting the lights back on, communicating with our customers and helping with the welfare support with the other agencies involved in the emergencies that have been declared in County Durham and Northumberland.”

Durham County Council called in troops, it said, because NP was “unable to confirm when supplies will be restored”.

On Friday, soldiers distributed hundreds of emergency aid parcels to people entering a second week without power.

Frank Beddard, of Cowshill, was grateful for his but said it had come too late.

“I just wish they’d been here six days ago. Boris Johnson should have said ‘there’s a problem up north, get up there’.”

Jessica Teasdale, from Stanley in County Durham, told the PA news agency: “People are frustrated and angry… everyone is getting ill.

“I saw my elderly neighbour yesterday, the poor man looked like he was going to cry. He’s a vulnerable person but no-one has checked on him and he lives alone.”

Her partner, Christopher Bertram, added: “I am sitting looking at Jessica now and she is a wreck. She hasn’t slept or washed properly for a week. She’s like a shell of a person. It is awful to watch.”

Durham declared a major incident on Thursday with supplies to thousands of properties in areas including Teesdale and Weardale still off.

Amanda Hopgood, leader of Durham County Council, said she understood people were frustrated with the time it took to ramp up their response.

“Once we’ve made certain everyone is all right we will be looking to see what lessons can be learned.

“It wasn’t that we weren’t doing anything last weekend, we were, but as well as the power cuts we had roads blocked with snow.”