February 2, 2023

Sheffield residents say their entire household sleeps in the same room with a single electric heater or they’ve moved out altogether as they face a fifth day without gas as temperatures plummet.

A major incident was declared and 2,000 homes were affected in Stannington, a suburb of Sheffield, after 600,000 liters of water spilled into a gas main on Friday night. Nearby Hillsborough is also affected. Olivia Blake, MP for Sheffield Hallam, has called on the government to provide emergency assistance on the ground.

“The situation is dire,” said Alan Walker, 67, the owner of the Village Store. He also spoke about an 86-year-old former employee who lives nearby: “She suffers from dementia and receives a care package four times a day. Yesterday morning caretakers went in and decided it was best to leave her in bed and feed her breakfast there as that would be the best place for her.

“After she ate her breakfast, one of our employees went in to see if she was okay. She lay in bed shaking from possible hypothermia. They got her out of bed and put her on the fan heater in the living room and revitalized her. It was a potentially deadly situation.”

Walker’s home is 10C (50F) and he has no cooking or laundry facilities in his business. Four of his employees are sick and are also affected by the gas outage.

Cadent, the gas company “has no plan. They make up policies as time passes,” Walker said.

Ted Archer, 68, said: “The night it happened, my neighbor knocked on my door around 10:30pm and said there was a problem with the gas. I went outside to shut off the supply and water sprayed out of the gas meter.”

There have been reports of water leakage from gas ports. “My buddy had water spraying out of his gas fire,” Archer said. “Another mate turned on his gas hob and water sprayed out and went straight into his hood.

“Since then the house has been freezing. We only have two fan heaters and were then advised to use them sparingly. It’s really heavy since Friday night, just heating one room.

After Cadent distributed thousands of electric heaters, residents were told to stop using them because they overloaded the power grid. “They tell us not to use the heaters because they strand the power grid,” says Walker.

“Last night, nine houses on a street had no power because they were using the only heat source they had.”

Jamie Tuxford, 38, owner of the Peakcock Inn, said he was losing £1,000 a day as a result of the outage, not counting costs, including staff wages, bills and the food they had to waste. “The compensation Cadent offers is £100 per 24 hours regardless of the size of the company,” he said.

Cadent told Tuxford to talk to his insurance company. “They told us that because we’re still open and trading, they don’t know if it’s possible to file a claim for the loss of business because we’re still open,” he said.

“We want to stay open to take care of the community so they can come in and stay warm. We provide free tea, coffee and electric heating, but we are being pressured to close. We can’t just keep losing a thousand pounds a day.”

December is the Peacock Inn’s busiest period. “This couldn’t have come at a worse time. All food for the busiest part of the year is thrown away or given to food banks.”

“We’re five days into it and we have as much information as we did when it first started,” Tuxford said.

Rania Hunaishi, 25, a college student who is pregnant and has a one-year-old, said she moved out of the house and stayed with her mother for a few days “just to have a nice warm house, not to go to the toilet and it’s about freezing”.

She has returned home but cannot use the bath due to lack of hot water. “It’s time for me to relieve my back pain,” she said.

Peter Fox, 78, also left his home due to the lack of heating and moved into his son’s home.

A Cadent spokesperson said: “We have a well-rehearsed plan. We need to pump out the water, as soon as we do we’ll get the gas back in. We have distributed hotplates and stoves and provided meals to vulnerable residents. We also work with other agencies. Sheffield council has visited vulnerable residents.

“As of today, Northern Powergrid is offering free hot meals from food trucks. British gas engineers helped us and will repair appliances.

As for compensation, the spokesman said a £105 daily compensation will be provided to commercial properties for the loss of gas. Other losses require a separate claim. Household properties receive £65 per day.

As temperatures are expected to continue to drop, there is little hope that things will change in the coming days. “There’s no prospect of the gas coming back on any time soon,” Walker says.

Yorkshire Water said on Tuesday the leak had been fixed, while Cadent said engineers remained on site to drain water from the system.

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