Angry residents say they have been left in the dark by energy bosses, as power cuts extend into their second week.
Thousands of properties lost power in the wake of Storm Arwen, and although most have seen power restored, for hundreds of people in the northeast, it’s still unclear when the lights will come back on. .
Major incidents have been reported in County Durham and Northumberland, with the military being drafted to help.
Go here for all the latest news on the aftermath of Storm Arwen
Although fewer properties on Tyneside have been affected, there are still hundreds of homes in the Borough of Gateshead suffering from blackouts.
Around Crawcrook, around 200 homes are still without power, according to Northern Powergrid’s live map of outages.
Among these is the home of Robert and Gill Musgrove, whose lights went out at 9:20 p.m. last Friday night and still have not come back on.
It was a tough week for the couple, who stayed with relatives and had to explain to their children that they couldn’t decorate the house for Christmas yet. They said they were lucky compared to a lot of other people, but expressed frustration with the unpredictable pace of repairs.
Northern Powergrid now says power will likely be restored to the area by 10 p.m. on Sunday, December 5 – but Robert says that date has been pushed back frequently in recent days, and locals now think they have no idea as long as the power is back.
He said: “It’s a storm, damage is going to happen, we know that. It takes as long as it takes an engineer to fix it, but it’s the lack of communication that’s the problem. If they had said it was going to be a week, we would have planned that.
“All of these online updates are worthless – I’m sick of the power grid giving updates on how hard they work. In the meantime, I have to knock on my 79 year old neighbor’s door who has neither heat nor electricity to tell him that it will be another two days, then another two days.
“People live with bags for life because they are told it will only last two more days.
“I get updates from people along the road who phoned them for an hour and a half and then are good enough to tell us. There is no direct communication. I was perhaps naive. to believe that the damage caused by the biggest storm in 20 years would be repaired in a few days, but if the power grid tells me I will take them at their word.
“They should have been more honest about their abilities.”
He said Northern Powergrid should have informed locals, councils and the government that the outages could last more than a week in advance, which would allow more support to be drafted immediately.
While residents were offered money to cover the costs of their absence, parents of three said many people still face financial difficulties because they could not find the money in advance. that Northern Powergrid has promised to reimburse.
Gill added: “I know they are offering £ 15 for a meal, but we don’t have £ 75 up front to shell out every day. We have already spent the price of an entire weekly store on meals this week. , and we had to throw so much food out of the freezer.
“We don’t know how long this will last, and we are already spending the money planned for Christmas.”
A neighbor, who gave his name only as Andrew, echoed the same sentiment.
“If they could just give a rough idea – if they said it was going to be another week, okay, you could plan that,” he said.
Meanwhile, a man, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was furious at the “appalling” communication from the leaders of power.
He said: “We spent a week in our house freezing with our children, who are of primary school age. We did that because every day we were told that the power would be. back tomorrow.
“It was the worst thing: I appreciate that they have maybe 900 jobs and 40 guys to do them, but they don’t have to chain us. All week they changed the date. Communication of the estimated hours was appalling. “
While unhappy with Northern Powergrid’s response, many locals say the bright side of the crisis has been seeing the support offered by the community.
At the nearby pub, the Fox and Hounds, those without electricity were offered hot drinks, the option to charge their phones and sit warm.
Deputy manager Ben Hall, who briefly lost power in his own home in Prudhoe, said owner Lisa Ovenden jumped in to provide spare blankets, electricity and hot water to residents who had it. needed. Those who fled from cold houses to the pub shelter shared concerns about the change in the date of repairs, he added.
He said: “Everyone who was affected fell in the dumps, it’s good to offer them some warmth and people to talk to. We turned on our Christmas lights on Wednesday and people said it was was nice to have some festivity.
“The main topic of conversation was that we never told them anything, we have a gentleman who comes here every day who said it would be nice to have information through the door. They were left in the dark. – literally.
“I think everyone starts to get frustrated, after a week people are skinny. We’re just trying to do what we can to keep our spirits up.”
In a message to customers on its website, Northern Powergrid said, “When we post a restore time, please note that this is an estimate based on many contributing factors and local knowledge. The weather can change depending on how well we are able to restore. your diet. Rest assured, #teampowergrid’s priority is to restore your power safely and as quickly as possible. “
The organization says power has been restored to 97% of affected customers following the inclement weather last week – about 234,000 households.
In a statement to ChronicleLive on Wednesday, a spokesperson said, “All of our teams continue to work extremely hard to restore power to our customers. The vast majority of our remaining work now takes place in the regions of Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and County Durham.
“We fully understand and appreciate the growing frustrations of people and we truly apologize for the continued impact on the lives of our customers and thank them for their patience and continued understanding.”
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