‘Deep concern’ as thousands face cold snap without gas
Council leaders said they are “deeply concerned” about plummeting temperatures after they declared a major incident in a Sheffield suburb which has had no gas for five days.
People living in the Stannington area of the South Yorkshire city have been told they may be without gas heating and cooking appliances until the weekend after a water main burst on Friday night, sending hundreds of thousands of litres of water into the gas network.
Around 2,000 homes have been affected in the suburb, which rises to around 800ft above sea level and saw temperatures drop below freezing on Tuesday night.
Wednesday night is expected to be even colder, with forecasters expecting an overnight low of around minus 4 degrees Celsius, and snow possible later in the week.
Cadent – the firm which runs the gas network – said it has 150 people working day-and-night in the area and has begun to reconnect some homes.
Stannington resident Christine Vickers said: “We’re worrying because the temperatures are dropping quite drastically.
“We get a lot of snow up here in Stannington and they are forecasting snow.
“So, a lot of people are getting concerned that we’ve not got showers and heating and everything for when the snow comes.”
Ms Vickers said the elderly people she looks after in a sheltered housing block are worried about their electricity bills as they are using heaters to keep warm.
She said: “I’ve been saying to them: ‘Please use your heating, don’t get cold and you’ll get some compensation.’
“But they are all worrying. They’re worrying about their bills.”
Some locals said they were shocked on Friday night to be woken by water pouring out of boilers, cookers and gas meters.
Tim Jones said he has been looking after his 78-year-old mother who is recovering from cancer in her Stannington maisonette and has received electrical appliances from Cadent, including an electric blanket
Mr Jones said: “I know Sheffield City Council has made it a national emergency and the Red Cross have been drafted in.
“When the Red Cross get drafted in, it’s usually a serious incident.”
We're very worried. That's why we called the major incident. But, what we've seen .... is a real deep community spirit where people are helping individuals
Speaking at the community centre which has become the focus for the response, Sheffield City Council leader Terry Fox said the authority has declared a major incident so it could redeploy staff to the area.
Asked about the approaching cold snap, Mr Fox said: “We’re very worried.
“That’s why we called the major incident.
“But, what we’ve seen, to be brutally frank, is a real deep community spirit where people are helping individuals.”
The councillor said: “So we’re deeply concerned and that’s why we’re working and deploying staff around the area.”
Sheffield Hallam’s Labour MP Olivia Blake has said she has asked Chancellor Jeremy Hunt for emergency funding for the council and she raised the issue in the Commons on Wednesday.
Raising a point of order, Ms Blake said she was “yet to receive a response” to her letter to ministers asking for help with the incident.
She told MPs: “This is a huge effort, this has resulted in water flowing out of people’s ovens, flowing out of people’s fires, flowing out of their boilers which should be sealed, and getting past the water meters.
“This is an unprecedented and novel – it has been described to me – incident which really needs some support and action to make sure that we have the right infrastructure on the ground and I don’t think it can be left to the local authorities to organise that.”
Cadent spokeswoman Stephanie Van Rosse said around a quarter of the affected properties had been reconnected and she was hopeful the majority of households will be reconnected in the next two to three days.
Ms Van Rosse said the key part of the operation was getting the water out of the gas pipes and she said there were now 15 tankers in Stannington with engineers pumping around 200,000 litres a day.
She said: “We should get people back on over the next two or three days.
“Please bear with us. We know it’s cold but we are doing everything we can to get you back on gas as quickly as possible.”
Ms Van Rosse said the priority has been to look after the elderly and vulnerable and staff have been going from house-to-house to check on residents and hand out appliances.
Some locals said they have been told to try and limit non-essential electricity use due to the amount of appliances being switched on and some streets have seen blackouts.
Many residents blamed Yorkshire Water for the incident, saying the water main burst near the Rose and Crown pub was the latest in a series in the village.
Yorkshire Water said in a statement: “Burst pipes can happen for a number of reasons – often related to a change in temperature or pressure within the pipe. We constantly monitor our pipes so that we can reduce the risk of bursts, and the pipe in Stannington hasn’t burst in almost a decade.
“Unfortunately, on this occasion, the burst water main has impacted gas pipes that were laid nearby.
“Cadent, with the support of our teams and service partners, are working around the clock to pump water out of the gas pipes and ensure it is safe to reconnect supply to customers properties.”
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