UK Power Networks says it is still working to restore power after a fault in a substation resulted in a power surge that left hundreds of homes without electricity.
The surge at 1.30pm yesterday initially affected properties in Churchill Avenue, Wayfield Road, Montgomery Avenue and Cunningham Crescent, Chatham, with residents reporting smoke coming from sockets and plug-in air fresheners shooting out of the wall.
The incident caused a blaze in one property in Wayfield Road, which was put out by firefighters wearing breathing apparatus. Fortunately, no-one was injured.
UK Power Networks initially turned off the supply to 412 customers, though this has been reduced to 279 this morning.
Director of Customer Service at the firm, Ian Cameron, said: “The fault such as this it’s called a neutral fault.
“With a neutral fault, it causes these high voltage sparks which sometimes can cause damage to equipment in people's homes like TVs and boilers and under rare occasions can actually cause damage to the customer’s home supply.
“These faults are a bit more complex than most to get the power restored because we have to access the customers' properties to be able to test the wiring before we energise them, to make sure it is as safe as possible.”
The surge prompted a big response from the police and fire service, and also SGN gas engineers were called in case they were needed.
Wayfield Road was closed to traffic to enable the emergency services to work unhindered.
Medway Council leader Cllr Vince Maple (Lab) visited the scene himself at the conclusion of a council cabinet meeting last night.
He said: “I was there at around 9pm.
“At that stage around 300 homes were still without power and a number of residents were out on the street chatting.
“I found them in remarkably good spirits. They appreciated this was something of a unique occurrence and that everything was being done to fix the problem.
“I was reassured that the various services were working well together in partnership to look after the more vulnerable members of the community and I came away confident that everyone was getting the support they needed.”
Seven fire engines were initially called to the area, but they have since departed, as have the police officers.
The road has been re-opened.
UK PowerNetworks has a customer support team still on hand to assist residents. They are situated at the junction of Montgomery Avenue and Stalin Avenue. There is also a helpline for people to call: 0800 3163105.
A spokesman said: “Our engineers are working to reconnect the remaining customers as quickly as possible.”
“We understand how difficult this has been for our customers and we’re working hard to help those affected, particularly vulnerable customers, supporting them with food and accommodation as needed.
“We’ve made welfare facilities available on site including hot food and drinks, and temporary phone charging facilities and wifi for all.
“Our priority is to access customers’ properties as quickly as possible, to carry out the essential safety checks that are required, before we are able to safely restore power. Our on-site customer advisors are keeping customers updated throughout this process.”
The incident was caused by faulty equipment in a local electricity substation, which has now been permanently repaired.
Now employees of UK Power Netwroks are visiting each home individually to make sure all wiring is safe to be turned back on and no lasting damage has been caused to the electrical works.
Mr Cameron continued: “Having access to those homes is absolutely paramount so if you’re without power out there and you haven’t had a contact please do call 105 and let us know.
“We need access to make sure your home is safe before we can test your supply is good in your home and then we will be able to reenergise.”