Minister have been accused of presiding over a ‘national scandal’ as 30,000 homes faced a sixth night without power.
There were calls to send in the Army and declare a major incident to save hundreds of ‘forgotten’ elderly residents.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng promised to do ‘everything I can’ to ensure power was restored before Christmas. But he warned devastating weather events like Friday’s Storm Arwen could become more frequent due to climate change.
More than a million homes lost power as winds reached almost 100mph, ripping down power lines and uprooting thousands of trees.
Parts of Scotland, north east England, Cumbria and the Peak District remained cut off last night.
Residents in remote areas have resorted to gathering water from streams as pumps don’t work.
More than a million homes lost power as winds reached almost 100mph during Storm Arwen, ripping down power lines and uprooting thousands of trees
Parts of Scotland, north east England, Cumbria and the Peak District remained cut off last night. Residents in remote areas have resorted to gathering water from streams as pumps don’t work
Dr Lily Fulton-Humble, who lives near Alnwick in Northumberland and has a seven-week-old baby and a sick toddler, told the BBC her family was ‘losing the stamina’ to endure further nights without power.
‘It’s pretty cold – and when you’re feeding a baby every two hours it’s even colder,’ she said.
Linda and Paul Dunk, who are in their 70s and live near the village of Torphins in Aberdeenshire, said they had been wearing five layers of clothes and cooking on a camping stove.
‘Slowly this building is getting colder and colder,’ Mrs Dunk said. ‘We’re desperate.’
Steven Bridgett, Tory councillor for Rothbury in Northumberland, said: ‘This should have been declared a major incident and then we could have got the Army mobilised.
Energy regulator Ofgem said it would be ‘looking into how the storm has been handled, including the resilience of GB’s power infrastructure for extreme weather’.
Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron told the Commons ‘at least 7,000 homes’ in his Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency remained without power, with some facing another week of blackouts.
Saying they felt ‘forgotten’ about, he asked Mr Kwarteng: ‘Will he today task the Army to provide the support for the engineers on the ground in Cumbria to speed up fixing the problem?’ He also pressed for every affected community in Cumbria to receive generators.
Mary Kelly Foy, Labour MP for Durham City, said the ongoing power outages are a ‘national scandal’, while Easington Labour MP Grahame Morris branded the response ‘lamentable’.
Conservative MP Richard Holden said a rural surgery in his North West Durham constituency had lost £10,000 worth of flu vaccines when its fridges cut out.
‘There are some very isolated communities who have been told it may be a very long time before they can get full electricity,’ he said.
‘Can he do everything possible to ensure they are reconnected well before Christmas?’ Mr Kwarteng replied: ‘Being without power until Christmas is simply unacceptable, I’ll say that publicly, and I’ll do everything I can to make sure that that doesn’t happen.’
He added: ‘Clearly, Storm Arwen was an event the likes of which we haven’t seen for certainly 60 years since the record starts. We have to be prepared for similarly extreme, difficult weather conditions in the future. We have to make sure that our system is resilient.’
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng promised to do ‘everything I can’ to ensure power was restored before Christmas
He said it was ‘unacceptable’ that people were left waiting up to two hours to get through to a power cut emergency phone number over the weekend.
According to the Energy Networks Association, electricity has been restored to 97 per cent of the properties originally cut off.
But it said it would be at least the end of the week – seven days after the devastating storm – before it is back on for many others.
Isolated properties were proving hard to reach amid ‘catastrophic’ damage to the electricity network, it said, with 100 poles snapped in half at just one site.
Welfare centres and hot food have been provided, with energy companies working with emergency services, local authorities and the British Red Cross.
Customers are entitled to £70 for the first 24 hours of power loss – or 48 hours if conditions are classed as severe – plus a further £70 for each extra 12 hours without electricity, but there is a cap of £700.