Snow hampers fight to restore power
Published 25/03/2013 | 12:41
Snow drifts and abandoned vehicles continue to hamper efforts to restore power to 800 homes and businesses cut off when blizzard conditions hit Northern Ireland.
Two helicopters are assisting in the operation to get engineers to the affected properties, all of which are located in rural and exposed areas.
More than 140,000 customers who lost power when the wintry blast struck the eastern counties of the region last Thursday and Friday have since had supply restored.
Julia Carson, communication manager with network operator Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) said: "NIE emergency crews, supported by lines staff from the Republic of Ireland and Scotland are carrying out repairs to over 100 remaining faults on the electricity network.
"These are in areas where access has been very difficult, with snow drifts and abandoned cars hampering the restoration process. We have been using a helicopter to patrol remote areas and have commissioned an additional helicopter to deliver NIE emergency crews, engineers and equipment into these areas today by air."
Many farmers have been particularly badly hit by the severe weather, suffering livestock fatalities and damaged properties. Snow drifts in some areas are as high as 18 feet.
Democratic Unionist Assembly member Paul Frew urged Stormont Executive ministers to call for help from the Territorial Army (TA).
Mr Frew asked Regional Development (DRD) Minister Danny Kennedy, who has responsibility for the roads, and Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (Dard) Minister Michelle O'Neill to contact the military.
"The Territorial Army are in place for emergencies such as this and the engineering teams will have heavy plant which could help clear routes," he said. "Whilst DRD staff have been working hard, it would be sensible to supplement their efforts with the TA personnel to speed the process along. Many farmers are facing significant loss of livestock because of the conditions.
"The TA will also have the ability to erect temporary shelters if they are needed. Whilst Dard will not have machinery at its disposal, the minister should recognise the emergency situation which exists and the dire need for help within some communities."