'Absolute nightmare' as fire in Hemsworth leaves thousands without landlines and internet

A fire at a communications exchange which has left thousands of people without landlines has been described as a "major incident" for the town of Hemsworth.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 9:19 am
Updated Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 9:22 am
A fire at a communications exchange which has left thousands of people without landlines has been described as a "major incident" for the town of Hemsworth. Photo: Louise Goodyear

The town's telecommunications exchange was badly damaged in a fire last night, leaving thousands of homes and businesses without landlines or broadband.

Father Robert Hart is the rector at Saint Helen's Church, in Hemsworth, and said the fire was causing disruption to thousands of people in the Hemsworth, Kinsley and Fitzwilliam areas.

He said the disruption was particularly evident among older residents, many of whom do not have access to mobile phones and are reliant on their landlines.

The building was badly damaged in the fire. Photo: Father Robert Hart

BT and Sky, whose customers are among those affected by the outage, said they were working to regain access to the site as soon as it was safe to do so.

Fr Robert said: "It's all a bit chaotic. I'm concerned from a pastoral point of view, because there's clearly vulnerable people who have been isolating for a year now.

"They either don't have mobiles or aren't used to using them. It's difficult to know who to speak to.

"There's all sorts of people and it's quite scary. For those who are trying to work from school and home it's an absolute nightmare."

Fr Robert said he had been working to contact those affected by the outage where possible, particularly family members who live out of the area and may be concerned if unable to contact relatives in Hemsworth and the surrounding areas.

Staff at the church, which was unaffected by the blaze but is also facing landline issues, also offered prayers to those inconvenienced by the disruption.

It is understood that around 8,000 Sky and BT customers have been left with broadband and landline issues as a result of the fire on Westfield Road, Hemsworth.

A small number of ASDL customers, whose broadband service relies on the phone line, are among those impacted.

Fibre broadband and mobile services are unaffected by the fire, and residents are being urged to use mobile phones to contact emergency services if needed.

A Sky spokesperson said “Some Sky Broadband and Talk customers will be experiencing service issues after a key piece of local equipment was damaged in a fire. We will begin work to restore services as soon as it is safe for the repair work for be carried out. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this is causing.”

A BT Group spokesperson said: "Some homes and businesses in the Hemsworth area may be without landline and some broadband services after a fire at a local exchange last night. The fire service is carrying out investigations and we hope to gain access to the building once it's declared safe.

"Our Emergency Response Team is at the scene, coordinating our response.

“Mobile and fibre broadband services are not affected, and anyone needing to make a 999 call should use their mobile.”