Hundreds in Sheffield still without gas 10 days after pipes flooded

Heavy snow delays restoration efforts as local MP says she is ‘desperately worried’ for vulnerable constituents

Hundreds of people in Sheffield entered their 10th day without gas on Sunday after more than 1.5m litres of water flooded into gas pipes and created a nightmarish scenario “like something out of a disaster movie”.

Heavy snow overnight delayed restoration efforts in Stannington, the worst-affected area, which sits at the top of a hill in the north-west of Sheffield. Malin Bridge, at the bottom of the hill, has also been badly affected.

Olivia Blake, the Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam, said the situation was “very, very grim”, as the gas distributor Cadent warned that some properties might not be reconnected until Monday.

Blake said she was “desperately worried” for vulnerable constituents who had been off the gas grid since 2 December, when a 50-year-old water pipe burst and flooded gas pipes, cutting supplies to at least 2,000 households.

As well as severing gas supplies to homes across a four-mile area, some properties were flooded as the water built up to such pressure that it spurted out of appliances, ruining ceilings and carpets, said Blake.

Snow forced her to abandon her car at the bottom of a hill on Sunday morning as she went to help affected residents, who she said were increasingly tearful and cold.

As well as older and more frail people, those still affected included people undergoing cancer treatments, Blake said. Not all of those were on the priority gas register, which should ensure extra is available to people in vulnerable situations, she added.

Cadent, the gas supplier, said 34 households on the register still did not have their gas back on Sunday morning.

The energy regulator, Ofgem, said it was “extremely concerned” that vulnerable people had been without gas for so long.

A spokesperson for Cadent said the firm had “a couple of hundred” households still to reconnect on Sunday, with many others suffering intermittent gas outages as water continued to corrupt the gas pipes. She said she couldn’t be more specific about the number affected.

“We are desperately trying to get people back on [supply]. We were hoping the very last people would go back on today, but realistically it may well go into tomorrow,” she said.

The water pipe that burst was an asbestos-cement main from 1970s, but it is unclear exactly what happened, according to Yorkshire Water.

Its director of water, Neil Dewis, was confronted by angry residents on Friday. They accused the firm of not investing in infrastructure upgrades, claiming there had been nine or 10 recent water main bursts.

Snow delayed the arrival of some of the 250 engineers promised on site on Sunday to pump water from the gas mains and service pipes, which connect individual properties.

Cadent said it took just half an egg cup of water to stop gas flowing through a service pipe.

Blake said the situation on the ground was desperate. “There are people who haven’t had a hot bath or shower or been able to cook a hot meal for 10 days,” she said. “It’s like something out of a disaster movie. It’s absolutely grim.

“I can’t imagine anything worse than losing heat at this time of year – having no hot water and not being able to keep yourself and your kids warm. I’ve had people in tears on me all week. There’s a lot of people affected with vulnerabilities – young children with asthma, people in cancer treatment, people going through the absolute worst.”

Emergency accommodation was available for those who needed it, but most people wanted to stay put, said Blake.

Northern Powergrid, which supplies electricity to Sheffield, warned of potential powercuts as residents plugged in electric heaters to keep warm. It urged customers to stagger the use of demand of high energy using equipment like cookers, power showers, washing machines and tumble dryers and only heat essential rooms in their homes.

It has been providing hot meals for those affected, with two catering vans available from noon at Stannington Library and Malin Bridge Park & Ride, plus another from 1pm at Stannington Community Centre.

Kate Jones, Cadent’s incident controller, said: “A huge thank you to all of the residents who have been affected by the flooded gas pipes this week. You have been incredibly patient and understanding throughout this incident and we fully understand your frustrations. We thank you for being so kind to our engineers and all of the staff working around the clock to get you back on gas.”

Once gas is restored there must be a thorough investigation to find out what caused the issue, said Blake.

“There has never been anything quite like this. I spoke to the Association of British Insurers and they said it was ‘a novel incident’,” she said. “Every engineer said they have never dealt with anything like this. We need to know why this happened so that no other community has to suffer this nightmare.”


Helen Pidd North of England editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Thames Water accused of ignoring warnings after hundreds in Surrey endure days without water
Lib Dem councillor calls for company to be fined over the incident

Matthew Weaver

14, Aug, 2022 @1:30 PM

Article image
‘The whole embryo was there’: expert makes rare find on Sheffield museum opening day
Dean Lomax identifies probably oldest known vertebrate embryo from UK at Yorkshire Natural History Museum

Mark Brown North of England correspondent

15, Aug, 2022 @2:40 PM

Article image
MP urges water firm to put more profits into upgrades after Sheffield gas outage
Olivia Blake says not enough of Yorkshire Water’s £242m profits used for infrastructure after gas network flooded

Helen Pidd North of England editor

12, Dec, 2022 @4:03 PM

Article image
Sheffield protesters decry ‘hostile takeover’ of Leadmill music venue
Licensing hearing will decide whether multi-city Electric Group can run venue after serving eviction notice on longstanding leaseholder

Hannah Moore

18, Sep, 2023 @6:30 PM

Article image
Child in mental health crisis lived at police station for two days, chief reveals
Head of West Midlands police warns of rising crime in poorest areas as forces are stretched beyond capacity

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

27, Nov, 2022 @3:00 PM

Article image
NHS England in worse place now than in early days of Covid, says boss
‘Complexity and uncertainty’ ahead as NHS struggles to deliver standard of care patients deserve, says Amanda Pritchard

Denis Campbell Health policy editor

02, Nov, 2022 @7:02 PM

Article image
‘Bit bonkers’: actors to perform in three plays in three Sheffield theatres at once
Trilogy to mark the 50th anniversary of the Crucible will have performers sprinting between stages

Harriet Sherwood Arts and culture correspondent

09, Nov, 2021 @9:51 AM

Article image
Former Tory chair joins rebellion over Sunak’s onshore windfarm ban
Jake Berry is latest senior MP to urge prime minister to amend de facto block on new projects in England

Pippa Crerar Political editor

27, Nov, 2022 @1:33 PM

Article image
Sheffield residents face fifth day without heat after gas main flooded
Gas company Cadent distributed electric heaters, but residents were told to stop using them after grid breach

Sammy Gecsoyler

07, Dec, 2022 @7:55 PM

Article image
Water firms in England and Wales lost 1tn litres via leaky pipes in 2021
Regulator Ofwat says companies lost an average of 2,923.8m litres of water a day in 2021-22

Rachel Salvidge

19, Aug, 2022 @12:56 PM