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Clear-up begins after storms batter province

A MAJOR clear-up operation swung into action today after gales of up to 70mph left more than 4,000 homes in the province without electricity.

A MAJOR clear-up operation swung into action today after gales of up to 70mph left more than 4,000 homes in the province without electricity.

Power was restored early today to nearly all NIE customers except in the Omagh area where up to 100 homes are still without electricity.

Engineers were battling to repair lines damaged by early morning lightning in the town.

Although the gales were expected to ease off later today, motorists throughout the province were urged to drive with caution due to the treacherous road conditions.

The Drumconnelly Road in Omagh was blocked by a fallen tree and the Omagh Road in Drumquin has been closed by severe flooding.

High winds also hit ferry services crossing the Irish Sea and travellers were urged to contact their local ferry operator before leaving home to check for cancellations or delays.

And NIE chiefs warned other isolated faults due to the storms could affect customers in rural areas.

Gales wreaked havoc on Ulster overnight with around 4,400 customers suffering power-loss in Carrickfergus, Crossgar, Saintfield, Killinchy, Castlederg and Eden and Killough villages.

Carrickfergus was the worst affected with 1,800 homes left without electricity for up to five hours last night.

And in Co Donegal gales over 80mph caused widespread damage.

Peter Gavan, NIE's Director of Corporate Affairs, today paid tribute to staff who worked round the clock to restore power to homes.

"We pay tribute to our staff who displayed their customary commitment and dedication to keep inconvenience to customers to a minimum. And, as always, we shall examine our own performance to keep learning and improving our procedures and services to customers."

Pledging there will not be a repeat of the power-cut crisis of last Christmas, he added: "As soon as we received firm indications that a gale force storm threatened we issued a public warning and put our incident management procedures into place.

"We regret any power cuts whatever the reason. The reality of our rural network with its UK highest ratio of rural overhead line per customer (apart from the remote Scottish Highlands) is that severe weather - gales, snow and ice, lightning -can cause unavoidable damage.

"We shall keep working through increased targeted investment to minimise this type of damage."

Anyone who is still experiencing power-cut problems should contact the NIE customer helpline on 08457 643 643.


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