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Thousands still without power

Last updated 14:53 20/04/2014
Canterbury Street Lyttelton floods
John Kirk-Anderson/Fairfax NZ Zoom
GUSHING: Rainwater rushes down Canterbury St, Lyttelton.

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Power remains out to a number of homes in Auckland and on the South Island's West Coast today, days after being stung by Cyclone Ita's tail.

In Auckland, families were left without power after Thursday's storm downed power lines, which affected hot water pilots that supply electricity to hot water cylinders.

On the West Coast, linesmen had been working up to 16 hours a day to try and get power restored, but power companies were warning affected households could be offline for another few days at least.

Vector spokeswoman Sandy Hodge said she was hopeful the company had fixed "the guts" of Auckland's power problem.

However, Browns Bay and Titirangi customers were still without hot water, Hodge said.

Vector crew members were currently working on restoring hot water to Ranui, Arkles Bay and Henderson.
Vector did not know exactly how many homes were still without hot water but the company had restored hot water to "the bulk" of the affected homes, she said.

At the peak of the problem on Thursday about 22,000 properties were without power.

Hodge said she understood people's frustration at not having hot water, especially on Easter weekend when the family was at home.

"This is enormously frustrating for them."

Hodge said all power outages resulting from Thursday's storm had been resolved. However, if Auckland homes were still without power or hot water they should contact their retailer so the issue could be dealt to, she said.

In the meantime more than 1000 West Coast homes were still waiting for their power to be switched back on.

The two main power companies covering the coast, Westpower and Buller Electricity, were both battling huge amounts of damage to their networks with dozens of downed poles and uprooted trees.

Coasters were being urged to turn off all unnecessary appliances to ease the load on the fragile networks and to treat all damaged lines as live.

As the post storm clean-up enters day four, Erik Westergaard, chief executive of Buller Electricity, said the coast was still very much in the ''emergency response'' phase.

About 800 Buller Electricity customers are currently without power, at least 300 have been offline since midday Thursday, he said.

Buller Electricity covers 180km of the coast, from Punakaiki to Karamea, and Westergaard reported ''significant damage'' to the network on basically every single kilometre.

''This is a storm that none of my team have ever experienced. There is just a huge number of trees down and until we can replace the poles and overhead lines, we can't restore power to consumers.

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''Mending lines can be an arduous process, he said.

Crews began work in one damaged area at 7.30am yesterday and the network wasn't livened until 9.30pm.

''Over the last three days, we have had crews starting at 7am and not finishing until 10pm. It is just massive.''

Emergency diesel generators at Karamea overheated and failed last night, cutting power once again to about 500 homes, he said.

''We are working really, really hard to try and get as many back on tonight or to provide emergency generator back up for them, but we have still got probably another five to 10 days of significant work just to restore our network to normal conditions.''

Westpower chief executive Rob Caldwell said more than 300 customers remained without power.

Franz Josef Glacier centre was switched back on last night and today crews will be attempting to get power restored to the majority of residents in Whataroa and Fox Glacier, he said.Households south of Fox Glacier could be waiting another few days.

Meanwhile, 117 homes in Canterbury are also offline, an Orion spokesman said.

The majority of the affected households are just past Diamond Harbour, near Purau.Linesmen are working hard and hope to have the power restored tonight, he said.

- Stuff

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