Race to restore gas for Christmas

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Engineers were battling today to restore gas to 13,000 homes in time for Christmas.

More than 18,000 households in the Rossendale area of Lancashire were left without fuel on Monday after a main ruptured.

But 300 engineers working around the clock managed to reconnect 5,000 properties last night, main operator National Grid said.

Homes in Bacup, Waterfoot, Rawtenstall, Newchurch and Crawshawbooth have been without gas for two days since the ruptured main set light to an overhead power cable in Holme Lane, Rawtenstall.

Engineers are now visiting homes in these affected areas as they begin the task of switching the gas supply back on.

The incident also knocked out electricity to 30,000 homes in the area but United Utilities restored supplies on Monday night.

Work to repair the damaged gas pipe was completed yesterday morning, but engineers have had to repressurise and test the system and check each individual property.

Restoring the gas is proving to be a laborious process as engineers must visit each affected home.

Among the properties reconnected overnight were 30 care and nursing homes, National Grid said.

After Monday's rupture, the power provider had initially warned householders that gas may not be restored in time for Christmas Day.

National Grid's director of operations, Jon Butterworth, said: "This is a mammoth task but local people have been fantastic.

"I want to apologise for the inconvenience but also to thank people for their patience while we have been fixing the problem, and also for letting us into their homes during the night to get their gas supplies on for Christmas.

"We still need to visit thousands of homes but we have a dedicated workforce, many of whom have given up their own Christmas holidays and, as long as we can get access to properties, we hope to get most people back on gas supply in time for Christmas Day.

"Our engineers will continue calling on people throughout Christmas Eve and into Christmas Day. Working hand in hand with the community demonstrates the real power of action, and with their co-operation we hope to help local people have a warm Christmas after all."

Millions of householders will be relying on their ovens tomorrow as much of the nation prepares the traditional Christmas Day meal of roast turkey.

But demand for gas and electricity reduces over Christmas despite all the cooking, as industrial gas and electricity users typically shut down over the festive season.

Members of the public are being advised to ask engineers to show identification before letting them into their homes.