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Thousands shiver in Scotland, N. Ireland without power

EDINBURGH -- Thousands of people in Scotland and Northern Ireland were still without power on Monday after snow and high winds brought down electricity lines in some of the worst March weather for half a century.

Power cuts affected hundreds of thousands of people over the weekend in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England following blizzards which swept in from Siberia.

At least 140,000 homes and businesses in Northern Ireland were left without power at the weekend following heavy snowfall, but that had dropped to 900 on Monday, Northern Ireland Electricity said.

Snowdrifts of up to 5 meters (18 feet) were reported after snowfall of 30-40 cm, but the weather service said the worst was likely over.

Northern Ireland Electricity said engineers had been sent by helicopter to restore electricity in rural and exposed areas where snow drifts and abandoned cars have made access difficult.

The worst hit areas in Scotland were the isle Arran and the Kintyre peninsula in the west and the Dumfries and Galloway area in the southwest.

A spokesman for Scottish and Southern Energy said power to some 20,000 homes was knocked out in Arran and Kintyre at its peak after the storm hit on Friday. This included all 3,800 homes on Arran.

By around 11 a.m. on Monday, around 5,000 homes in the area were still without power, including 1,500 on Arran, where emergency generators were brought in.

A spokesman for Scottish Power, which covers the southwestern corner of Scotland, said 6,000 customers were without power on Saturday, with the Wigtown area of Dumfries and Galloway the hardest hit.

“Snow-blocked roads have been the biggest issue preventing engineers getting to sites,” the spokesman said. He added that as of Monday morning some 250 customers were still without power but hoped all would be back on line by the end of the day.

A Scottish government spokesman said the storm was of almost unprecedented violence, especially in the Kintyre area, including Arran.

Special efforts had been made to contact older people. Extra paramedics were on Arran, “and we will airlift people off the island if necessary.”

He said no fatalities had been reported as a result of the storms.

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