1987 storm: Eastern Electricity praised by minister during battle to get power restored to 250,000 homes

The aftermath of the great storm of October 1987 was still being felt around the region as much as a week after the storm had brought massive devastation.

As well as 600,000 cubic metres of woodland being lost in Norfolk and Suffolk, there were thousands of electricity pylons and telephone poles brought crashing down.

In the entire Eastern Electricity region there were over 250,000 homes or businesses left without power and the company – which survives through EDF Energy today after several changes of ownership over the years – was left with a repair bill of over �6m.

The company called in engineers from unaffected parts of the country to help restore power, as did BT (British Telecom), which drafted in workers from as far afield as Birmingham and Wales to help repair around 35,000 reported faults.

Energy secretary Cecil Parkinson flew into Eastern Electricity's headquarters at Wherstead, near Ipswich, five days after the great storm and said it was the worst devastation he had seen anywhere in the country.

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Mr Parkinson was visiting to say a personal thank-you to the thousands of engineers who had been struggling to reconnect the region's power supplies, with some workers flown in from Scotland and Northern Ireland.

He toured the nerve centre of the board's emergency operation and was told that 99 per cent of customers should be reconnected the following day.

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Mr Parkinson said: 'The message from the board is: we care and we are coming, 24-hours around the clock. The end is now in sight but it will take two or three more days.'

The minister congratulated the public for their 'tolerance and patience'. He said: 'The spirit is terrific, both of the public and Eastern Electricity employees.'

Mr Parkinson's helicopter flew into the Wherstead headquarters. As he emerged to be greeted by Eastern Electricity chairman James Smith, the energy secretary told him: 'I think you are doing a marvellous job.'

Later he said: 'As we came in by helicopter, instead of just trees knocked down, whole copses of trees seem to have been felled, the closer to Suffolk we got.

'This area's devastation is the worst I have seen anywhere.'

One of the engineers brought in to help was Bernard Douglass, who now lives in Wymondham after falling in love with Norfolk at the time.

In 1987 he was working as a supervising engineer for Eastern Electricity Board in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.

Mr Douglass recalls: 'On the Saturday after the gale I was asked to lead a team based at Bury St Edmunds. 'Foreign' engineers like me were teamed up with a local linesman team and vice versa.

'This was my first visit to East Anglia. I fell in love with the place and my wife and I moved to Wymondham three years ago.

'I spent a whole week on emergency repairs, staying at a hotel, and working from 8am often later than 8pm, fumbling around in total darkness. The weather following the storm was the best of autumn weather; sunny, fairly mild, and calm.

'My stay passed like an activity holiday, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.'

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