Families angry at power loss

Homeowners plunged into darkness by last Thursday's storms have attacked EDF Energy after finding themselves in the dark over when they would have their electricity back.

Five years ago, parts of Britain were plunged into darkness after gales hit the country. Call centres went into meltdown and assurances were made that the same problem would not happen again.

But homeowners plunged into darkness again by last Thursday's storms found themselves in the dark over when they would have their electricity back.

While EDF Energy engineers have been praised for working all hours to get electricity supplies restored to homes, the company's call centres have been damned by customers who felt they were given bad or no information.

Teresa Watker and her family - husband Carl, 18-month-old twins Abbie and Katie and five-year-old Ryan - were left in limbo not knowing when they would be able to move back into their home in Newton Road, Hainford.

The reflexologist mum and landscape gardener dad were lucky enough to be able to camp out at Carl's parents' home instead of having to book into a hotel, but it has not been ideal.

“My five-year-old doesn't know if it is night or day and he has been awake half the night,” said Mrs Watker.

Most Read

“The girls woke up cold at 3.30 this morning, despite having three layers on. It is all completely out of sync for them.

“You phone up to get some kind of timescale and what they tell you is absolute rubbish. It has been four days and it is so frustrating. They do not appreciate the situation people are in.”

She said the only sense they got was out of the engineers who turned up first thing yesterday morning, despite EDF saying they would be there in the afternoon.

Mrs Watker said the company had not learned from the gales in 1992 despite a warning from watchdog Energywatch about lack of customer information.

Pensioners Jack and Doreen Olley, who live next door, said they had similar problems.

But Mr Olley, who used to work as a linesman for the electricity board, said once they knew, the engineers did a sterling job. The couple coped with a Calor Gas heater and a picnic stove.

He blamed the axing of the local divisions and said the call centres did not know what they were doing.

EDF has said it will be fully reviewing its processes once all customers' supplies have been restored.

It said last night that 67 engineers had been drafted in from France, planned work was stopped, staff

were brought in from other

branches of the company and

outside contractors were employed.

As of last night at about 6pm, 170 customers were still off supply because of the storms in the east of England. Four of those were in Norfolk.

James Barber, a spokesman for the company, said: “EDF Energy Networks is sorry to hear the problems encountered by Mrs Watker.”

He said that on Thursday EDF sustained more than 3,400 damage incidents to its network - the equivalent of two months' work - and more than 400,000 customers in the east of England were affected.

He said: “Within 24 hours we had restored 90pc of these and by Sunday morning more than 98pc.”

He said the work was complex on the Watkers' home and stressed that these were the worst storms to hit the UK in 17 years.

Electricity engineers were called out to the Tesco store in Hethersett, near Norwich, yesterday morning after power cables were reported arcing nearby.

An overhead-cable team from EDF energy company was called in to deal with the incident, which had caused power surges in the nearby Tesco store in Great Melton road, leading to the electricity supply in the supermarket being shut off. Fire crews from Hethersett stood by to make the scene safe.