Anger as confused message is given out to flood-hit villagers

WATER WOE Hambledon high street on Saturday. Picture: Sarah Standing (14547-3050)
WATER WOE Hambledon high street on Saturday. Picture: Sarah Standing (14547-3050)
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AN ELECTRICITY firm has come under stern criticism for the way it handled a power cut in flood-hit Hambledon.

Villagers were angry as they said the telephone operator they were dealing with did not appear to be aware of Hambledon’s situation and the desperate need to get electricity restored to get the water pumps working again.

WATER WOE Tony Higham, chairman of the Hambledon Flood Action Group, left, and Mik Norman, the chairman of the parish council

WATER WOE Tony Higham, chairman of the Hambledon Flood Action Group, left, and Mik Norman, the chairman of the parish council

The power cut came at about 11pm on Friday and affected around 4,800 homes in Waterlooville, Denmead, Horndean and Hambledon.

For Hambledon, the first power cut lasted for eight minutes and was followed by three more short power cuts over the next 90 minutes.

Plunged into darkness, The Royal Signal troop, which has been drafted in to support villagers, sprung into action and deployed motor-driven pumps to the most vulnerable properties.

But Tony Higham, chairman of Hambledon Flood Action Group, was dismayed when he got on the phone to Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE).

He said: ‘The matter was reported to our special Scottish and Southern Emergency number – given to us as Hambledon was supposed to be specially looked after by SSE during this time of reliance on electricity to drive the pumps.

‘The response from the telephonist was she had never heard of Hambledon – she thought it was Hamble – knew of no special arrangement, and did not know there was a large generator forward placed at Waterlooville ready to be scrambled.’

Mr Higham said the performance by SSE was ‘utterly lamentable’.

At 3am an SSE engineer turned up and explained the fault was because of an underground wire in Clanfield.

Mik Norman, chairman of Hambledon Parish Council, said: ‘We were repeatedly told we were at the top of the emergency list in Hampshire.’

An SSE spokesman could not refer to the exact telephone conversation, but said power was restored very quickly and the operator may not have been aware of Hambledon’s special case as electricity was back on within 20 minutes.

He added: ‘We would like to apologise to any customer who lost power in the Waterlooville area.

‘We have experienced some exceptional weather events in the south of England recently, and flooding is still leading to some faults which our engineers are repairing as quickly, and as safely, as possible.

‘Engineers were able to locate the fault quickly, and all power was restored within 20 minutes.’