Fire at BT depot blacks out town

Reporter:

Lucy Wain

Shopping trolleys were abandoned, queues formed at cash points and shops were deserted after a fire caused chaos for residents and businesses in Oswestry on Sunday.

Thousands of people in the town and the surrounding area were cut off from broadband and phone connections after the blaze broke out at the BT phone exchange in Welsh Walls, Oswestry.

Properties were left without access to telephones and internet reception for almost eight hours before the problem was resolved at 4pm.

Businesses in the area were affected by the blaze as till systems failed to work, leaving shops with queues of people.

Justin Smart, from Stans Superstore in St Martins, said the cut-off lasted for an hour and a half.

“There was a period of time when out of our 14 tills, 13 were not working.

“Luckily we had one till that worked. But we did have to pre-warn shoppers that there were going to be queues.

“Luckily they weren’t frustrated as they realised the problem was out of our control.

“We have still experienced problems with the phones the day after the fire. Hopefully they will be back to normal soon.”

Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s was also hit, causing people to abandon their trolleys mid-shop to avoid facing the queues.

Allister Moutrie, store manager, said: “Luckily we have procedures in place if we have to manage situations with connection issues.

“There were people queuing up for the cash point outside and there was a delay with processing payments.”

Firefighters from Oswestry and Ellesmere were called around 7.50am on Sunday morning after they were alerted to a fire involving two battery packs, which four firefighters carried out and extinguished.

A spokesperson for BT said: “The fire at Oswestry telephone exchange affected broadband and telephone lines from Sunday morning until 4pm.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused and our engineers are currently working with any further problems.”

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