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Residents ‘frustrated and angry’ after a week without power

·5 min read
The Army has been called in to help residents left without power following Storm Arwen one week ago (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)
The Army has been called in to help residents left without power following Storm Arwen one week ago (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)

Residents have said they are feeling “frustrated and angry” after being left without power for a week following Storm Arwen.

One man in County Durham told how he is using his dog as a hot water bottle, while others said they are becoming ill after days with no heating.

Around 10,500 people are still without power in some parts of north-east Scotland and the North of England after Storm Arwen swept across the country on Friday November 26.

The storm has been described as the worst in 20 years by Red Cross teams supporting those affected.

I’m using my dog as a hot water bottle

Country Durham resident Christopher Bertram

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.

“They keep changing the dates of when the power will be put on, but it’s giving people false hope… now they are saying Sunday, but how do they expect us to live like this until then?”

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.

“I’m using my dog as a hot water bottle.”

The couple had their power restored at about 2.30pm on Friday.

Meanwhile, a couple in Northumberland left without power for a week accused Northern Powergrid of “fobbing off” residents in their handling of the crisis.

Stewart Sexton said he and his partner have been without heating, hot water, lighting or any means of communication since their home lost power at 7.50pm last Friday.

Speaking to PA from his car in Alnwick, where he drove to from his nearby home to get phone signal, the 57-year-old said: “No-one gives a toss about us in Northumberland. First contact from Northern Powergrid was day six (Thursday).

Christopher Bertram and his partner Jessica Teasdale at their home in Stanley, County Durham (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)
Christopher Bertram and his partner Jessica Teasdale at their home in Stanley, County Durham (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)

“They gave no info except praising themselves and saying we can claim some expenses if we have receipts… after six days with candles, some takeaways, extra logs for wood burner, I have no receipts. Who would?

“Every day this week they say it will be on tomorrow. They say they are making estimates but it’s not, it’s a generic fob off.”

Paul Glendinning, executive director at Northern Powergrid, said: “We’re very sorry for the hardship and disruption our customers are experiencing.

“Our top priorities are reconnecting our customers as soon as possible, keeping them informed to the best of our abilities and doing everything we can to support the wider effort in our communities aimed at helping those who need us the most.”

Northern Powergrid said it has restored power to 234,900 of the 240,000 customers affected by Storm Arwen. As at 10pm on Friday, 5,100 customers are without power. Work is continuing to restore power to the rest.

North of the border, around 1,600 Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) customers remained off supply on Friday morning.

Among them were 72-year-olds Jim and Belinda Muir, of Honeyneuk Farm in Maud, Aberdeenshire.

A week after the storm took their home off the grid, they still cannot rely on mains electricity, with dim and flickering lights which turn off without notice and not enough energy to power their central heating system.

The couple, who have been married for 48 years, have been relying on a generator and portable gas heaters to provide some form of light and warmth for their homes.

Jim Muir and his wife Belinda, who live at Honeyneuk Farm, Maud, Aberdeenshire, have been without power for over a week following Storm Arwen (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
Jim Muir and his wife Belinda, who live at Honeyneuk Farm, Maud, Aberdeenshire, have been without power for over a week following Storm Arwen (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)

The power outage has also caused problems on the farm, with Mr Muir using tractor headlights to illuminate a shed to enable safe delivery of a calf.

His cattle were left without their water supply which uses an electric pump until they brought in a generator.

“Listening to the wireless, there were people worrying about their mobile phones not charging,” he said. “We have 400 head of cattle we have to look after.”

He praised engineers who have been working to fix the issues, but said the “information has been appalling”.

“One morning I sat on the phone for one hour and listened to a recorded message and got nothing,” he said. “We learned nothing. We didn’t know if we should be buying a generator.”

He said when he got updates of when power was expected to be back on, it never was. Eventually, he said, they secured a generator and the water was back up and running to the 500-acre farm.

He added: “We’re hoping (to have power restored) tomorrow but I don’t know.”

Mr Muir said their power later was restored to them at 5pm on Friday.

Soldiers have been deployed to help in affected areas (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)
Soldiers have been deployed to help in affected areas (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)

Matthew Killick, crisis response and community resilience director with the British Red Cross, said: “It’s been an extremely challenging week. Our teams on the ground are saying this is the worst storm in 20 years.

“Many families are still having to contend with freezing temperatures with no power. Our staff and volunteers have been working tirelessly alongside local authorities, the emergency services and the voluntary sector to keep people safe, checking on vulnerable people and distributing water, hot water, food, torches and blankets.

“If you’ve been affected by Storm Arwen you can contact the British Red Cross support line on 0808 196 3651. You can also find other useful information on our website redcross.org.uk.”

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