Salmond praises workers for Christmas emergency efforts

Waves crash over a wall near Saltcoats station on December 24 2013
Image caption Winds of up to 82mph were recorded on Christmas Eve

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond has praised people who worked over Christmas to restore power after gales disrupted supplies.

Engineers, ferry staff, and emergency services acted "selflessly" so others could have a happy Christmas, he said.

Elgin, Aberdeenshire and the Northern and Western Isles were hit by gusts of up to 82mph and 3,500 homes lost power as electricity lines were brought down.

Engineers reconnected 1,700 properties still affected on Christmas Day.

In a first for December 25, ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne was running special sailings to North Uist and Harris, to help people affected by flight and ferry cancellations on Christmas Eve.

Mr Salmond said: "The efforts by workers throughout Scotland who have gone out of their way and sacrificed their own Christmas Days to restore some joy to others should not go unnoticed.

"People have really gone out of their way to help those in need."

Contingency plans

Alan Broadbent, Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution's head of engineering, said: "I would like to apologise to everyone who was affected by a loss of power and to thank them for their patience.

"No-one wants to have a power cut at this time of year and we did everything possible to restore power as quickly as we could.

"We very quickly deployed our contingency plans as we have been preparing for the high winds for several days now. We had additional staff available to deal with the incidents and further customer service personnel to handle customer calls."

The highest recorded gust on Tuesday stood was recorded in Peterhead.

In Inverbervie, Aberdeenshire, wind speeds reached 77mph, while on South Uist it was 75mph.

The rest of Scotland experienced winds of between 50 and 60mph.

Elsewhere, high winds on Tuesday saw part of the roof at Thurso High School in Caithness blown off, damaging two vehicles.

Part of an empty building in Elgin was also damaged, and three families were evacuated from nearby houses, after part of the structure collapsed on to the road.

In the Scottish borders, fallen trees and debris caused problems on some roads, with a mudslide temporarily closing the A7.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency had 15 flood warnings and five flood alerts in place, many in the Tayside area.

Meanwhile, the Met Office has a yellow "be aware" warning for high winds and heavy rain developing late on Thursday night across most parts of Scotland.

It said there could be gusts of more than 50mph inland and up to 80mph on some coastal areas and high ground.

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