Over 200 people tucked into Easter lunch at an emergency relief centre yesterday as NIE engineers battled to restore power to the remaining households left without electricity since an ice storm brought down the network.
Up to 100,000 households were left without power following last Tuesday’s severe winter storms — with north Antrim among the hardest-hit areas.
NIE had managed to reconnect all but 500 customers by yesterday evening and was hopeful that all power cuts would be restored by this morning.
Ballymoney Borough Council opened two relief centres — the Millennium Centre in Loughguile and the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre in Ballymoney — over the weekend to aid those facing a fifth day without electricity. Visitors were provided with hot meals, washing facilities and a bed for the night if needed.
Ballymoney Borough Council's Brian Edgar said he had been delighted by the response of the local community in the wake of the blackout.
“The community association's response has been phenomenal,” he said.
“As has the Community Rescue Service who have been bringing people to the centres, checking on people and bringing them their shopping.
“Everybody has pulled together under trying circumstances.”
Mr Edgar said some 1,000 people had been catered for at the Millennium Centre in recent days.
“They have come from all over including Armoy, Clough, Dunloy, Cullybackey and Broughshane,” he added.
Benny Knight, manager of the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre, said 80 to 90 locals had made use of the facilities each day since Thursday with one family spending a night in the centre.
“We have been open 24/7 since Thursday and people have been coming in for lunch and tea as well as using the showers,” he said.
“There are also people charging phones and laptops and one woman was in straightening her hair.
“Our restaurant has been providing meals so people have been basically getting what they want to eat.”
Emergency beds were put in place upstairs at the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre and people were kept entertained thanks to the generosity of local businessman Basil Knipe who provided a 50ins television from his electrical store.
A representative from NIE was on hand at both centres to provide up to date information to customers since they opened.
A spokeswoman for NIE said less than 500 customers were without power yesterday evening but added that NIE was hopeful “that everyone will have electricity supplies reconnected by midnight”.