Army brought in to help people left without power by Storm Arwen

The army has been deployed to help residents in northern England and Scotland who have been without power for a week since Storm Arwen caused “catastrophic damage” to the electricity network.

Durham county council said about 100 forces staff would be based in Weardale to help local people.

Northern Powergrid, the electricity distribution network operator for the north-east of England, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, said 6,000 customers remained off supply at 11pm on Thursday, though power had been restored to 234,000 others since Storm Arwen swept across the country on Friday 26 November.

About 130 troops have been sent to carry out door-to-door checks and offer welfare support in the north-east of Scotland, where 1,600 Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) customers remained off supply at 7am on Friday.

Jim Savege, the chief executive of Aberdeenshire council, said SSEN told him it hoped to get the number of customers off power down to 1,000 on Friday, though some may not be reconnected until the weekend.

He told BBC Breakfast: “It’s been a really tough week for families and communities across all of Aberdeenshire. There has been an amazing effort of support from communities and emergency services here to make sure people are safe as we look to get the power back on as soon as we can.”

He added: “SSEN have got many hundreds of their staff out on the ground and have been going through all of the lines they’ve got and fixing and repairing as they go, and in the meantime many other services are making sure the communities are safe, they’ve got what they need in terms of whatever food and heating and support and accommodation we can provide.

“I think the really unfortunate thing is we think there’s still going to be people who are going to be off into the weekend, so we continue to ramp up and do whatever more we can do to support people in what has been a very extended period of time with that national infrastructure having gone down.”

Aberdeenshire council said that in its area the army would be based out of police stations in Ellon, Turiff, Inverurie and Banchory, with three teams of 10 at each.

SSEN said power had been restored to more than 129,000 customers since Storm Arwen first struck, causing what its managing director, Chris Burchell, described as “catastrophic damage to the electricity network”.

The company said properties still without power were mainly located in rural and isolated communities, with Aberdeenshire the main area still affected.

The UK defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said: “We are always ready to provide extra support to civil authorities across the UK in their time of need and it’s great to see units based in Scotland supporting their local communities.

“Our dedicated armed forces will conduct door-to-door checks on people in their homes, providing essential support to those impacted by Storm Arwen.”

In England, Durham county council said the military help followed a request from County Durham and Darlington Local Resilience Forum (LRF) for additional resources.

John Hewitt, the chair of the LRF’s strategic co-ordinating group, said: “We are doing everything we can to support residents who are affected by the disruption to power supplies, from providing emergency supplies to simply checking in to make sure everything is OK.”

He added: “We are very grateful to the Ministry of Defence that they have approved our request for support and that we already have troops on the ground helping our communities.”

The council said forces staff based in St John’s chapel in Weardale would carry out door-to-door visits to check on residents’ wellbeing and ensure help and support was provided where needed.

They will also provide updates on work to restore the power supply and gather feedback on any issues of concern.

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