Page last updated at 14:48 GMT, Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Festive hope for gas blast homes

The ruptured gas main set light to an overhead power cable

Engineers have restored supplies to 16,000 of the 18,000 Lancashire homes left without gas following an explosion.

Supplies were disrupted after a gas main ruptured on Monday, setting light to an overhead power cable at Holme Lane, in Rawtenstall.

Initially National Grid said it was unlikely services would be fully restored before 25 December.

Engineers said they had been unable to access 2,000 properties.

National Grid pledged that engineers would continue calling on people throughout Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Thirty nursing homes were among the properties where gas supplies have been reconnected.

Engineers need to gain access to each affected property, so those vacant over the festive season will be left without gas until the householders return.

Temporary repairs have been made to the power line damaged in the explosion.

About 300 engineers worked "around-the-clock" to restore services, a spokesman said.

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.

I can have a bath tonight, that's what I've missed most
Pat Holden, resident in Rawtenstall

The blast on Monday morning left 18,000 homes without gas and 17,000 without electricity in the Bacup, Waterfoot, Rawtenstall, Newchurch and Crawshawbooth areas.

Pat Holden, 63, who lives on Lomas Lane, Rawtenstall, had her gas switched back on earlier.

She said: "The first night was a bit miserable because it was really cold.

"It was a godsend when the electric came back on because that meant I've got a microwave, toaster and kettle and I've been boiling hot water to keep clean.

"My ex-husband brought me a heater and it was warm last night. I can have a bath tonight, that's what I've missed most.

"It's the Dunkirk spirit, you just get on with it."

Work to repair the damaged gas pipe was completed on Tuesday morning, but engineers had to re-pressurise and test the system, as well as checking each individual property.

They advised residents without gas to check all appliances were switched off.

National Grid said on-call engineers would be visiting as many homes as possible on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to ensure gas is restored.

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