Shear Brow residents' power surge anger

By Lynette Horsburgh
BBC News, Shear Brow

image captionUwais Umerji is anxiously waiting to see if he can retrieve his dissertation

"It was like fireworks going off - there were sparks flying and smoke everywhere."

That is how one Shear Brow resident described the power surge which has destroyed electrical appliances in hundreds of homes.

It left 400 Blackburn homes with no heating and has damaged numerous appliances beyond repair, residents have claimed.

As a team of engineers from Electricity North West (ENW) worked to fix boilers in affected homes, there was a rising feeling of anger among many householders.

The frustration led to Lancashire Police being called to the area on Wednesday night as some Shear Brow residents got "irate and agitated" as they queued for heaters ENW was providing.

The surge, at 10:00 GMT on Tuesday, was caused by a fault in the electricity network.

Resident Mohsin Malek said: "My dad thought the house was on fire. There was smoke coming out of the TV and hot melted liquid poured out of my video and Sky box."

'Like a bonfire'

He said 15 appliances were no longer working in his house following the surge. His boiler was fixed by ENW at 21:00 on Tuesday as a priority because his mother has a heart condition.

But Mr Malek said he was still waiting for news on when his other appliances, such as fridge freezer, microwave and TV, would be fixed.

He said: "I am lucky compared to my neighbour. He is 76 years old and he has had no heating or hot water for 48 hours."

Another neighbour, Jamila Patel, described being terrified by the power surge.

The mother of four explained: "I heard a bang, then the spotlights in the ceiling blew up one by one. It was like a bonfire.

"I was in tears because I have just had a new kitchen fitted and it is ruined. I'm devastated."

Mrs Patel added: "I was blaming my husband for not getting the wiring done properly. I then felt bad because he has high blood pressure so he shouldn't get stressed."

'Absolutely gutted'

As well as the spotlights in the ceiling, electrical goods no longer working include the fridge and fridge freezer, integrated microwave and all the phone chargers.

She said: "I am so glad we have a gas oven."

Manchester Metropolitan University student Uwais Umerji has an anxious wait to see if he can retrieve his dissertation from his damaged laptop.

The 23-year-old said: "I am absolutely gutted - my laptop has pretty much fried.

image captionThe Malek family - Hawabibi, Mohsin and Yunus - with some of their damaged items

"I'd done 4,000 words of my 10,000-word dissertation and it was six months' work. I just hope it can be retrieved," he added.

Although ENW said it would fix boilers, it initially angered residents by offering a £300 "goodwill payment" for other broken appliances. Some complained it would not even cover the cost of their television.

The company then issued a statement that said: "There was nothing we could have done to prevent [the surge], therefore we are not obliged or responsible to pay for it."

However, following a public meeting on Thursday attended by Blackburn MP Jack Straw, the company said it would increase this payment to £1,000.

Mr Malek said: "I don't have home insurance and neither do my neighbours. But anyway, it is not the responsibility of an insurance company, it is the ENW who have caused the damage."

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