Could be ‘very long time’ before electricity is fully restored
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng described the storm as unlike any other, and promised to do everything possible to restore power to homes affected before Christmas.
In Parliament, Conservative Richard Holden told MPs including Mr Kwarteng that a rural surgery in his North West Durham constituency had lost £10,000 of flu vaccines when its fridges cut out.
He said some remote communities have been warned it could be a “very long time” before their electricity supply is fully restored.
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.
“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 in that eventuality.”
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.
Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said at least 7,000 homes in his Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency have been without power for between three and five nights and feel “forgotten”.
Some have been told they will be without power for another week, and he urged the Government to send in the Army to help.
Mary Kelly Foy, Labour MP for Durham City, said the power outages are a “national scandal”.
The Energy Networks Association said electricity has been restored to 97% of those affected but it will be at least the end of the week – seven days after the storm – before it is back on for a minority.
Welfare centres and hot food have been provided, with energy network companies working with local resilience forums, emergency services, local authorities and the British Red Cross.
Engineers from across the UK have been sent to the worst-affected areas.
Energy minister Greg Hands visited Weardale, County Durham, on Wednesday and met Northern Powergrid engineers to thank them for their efforts.
He said about 3,000 homes in the St John’s Chapel area had lost power, which should be down to the “few hundreds” by Wednesday night.
The minister was also expected to visit Northern Powergrid’s Newcastle call centre, his department said.
Mr Kwarteng has previously warned that weather events like Storm Arwen could become more frequent due to climate change.