Shetland Islands residents left without phone and internet after undersea cable damaged

Extra police officers and vehicles from across Scotland have been sent to the Shetland islands

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Extra police officers and vehicles from across Scotland have been sent to the Shetland islands after an undersea telecommunications cable was damaged.

Residents have been left without phone and internet since the early hours of Thursday due to the break in the cable connecting Shetland to mainland Scotland.

The cause of the damage has not yet been confirmed.

Nicola Sturgeon said the situation is “very serious” for Shetland.

Extra police officers and vehicles from across Scotland have been sent to the Shetland islands after an undersea telecommunications cable was damaged
Extra police officers and vehicles from across Scotland have been sent to the Shetland islands after an undersea telecommunications cable was damaged

The First Minister tweeted: “The Scottish Government’s resilience committee has met and is working closely with partner agencies to ensure support for those who need it, and that the cable damage can be repaired and services restored asap.”

MP for Orkney and Shetland Alastair Carmichael said it could be days before the power is restored.

Superintendent David Ross, of Police Scotland, said extra police resources are being sent to the islands to ensure people across Shetland have access to emergency services until the problem is resolved and services resume.

He said officers will be ready to be deployed on Friday, and will remain “as long as necessary”.

“Officers are patrolling in vehicles and on foot and will continue to make themselves available,” he said.

“In addition, I would ask that relatives and neighbours of elderly or vulnerable people check on them regularly.

“Assistance alarms may not be operating correctly.”

Local police stations are open and there is an emergency Hub set up in the Tesco car park in South Road, Lerwick, police said.

In the meantime, officers are advising Shetland residents to avoid making non-urgent calls so that all available lines can be used for emergencies if required.

Nicola Sturgeon said the situation is “very serious” for Shetland
Nicola Sturgeon said the situation is “very serious” for Shetland

Operator BT said the break is in a third-party cable and that engineers are working to divert services via other lines as soon as possible.

Commenting on the situation, Mr Carmichael said: “The Secretary of State will, I hope, have been made aware that in the early hours of this morning, the main telecommunications cable to Shetland was cut.

“As a consequence, this morning, my constituents in Shetland have very limited access to telephone or broadband services, with all the implications that has for the emergency services, let alone local families and businesses.

“First, can the Secretary of State give me an assurance that we will get a full statement on what is happening?

“I am told at the moment that it could be two days before services are replaced.

“Secondly, in the longer term, can we have a proper look at the resilience of that service? It is just not acceptable for a community the size of Shetland to be left without telecommunications for this long.”

Culture secretary Michelle Donelan said the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport department (DCMS) will provide an update before the end of Thursday.

Commenting on the break, Beatrice Wishart, the MSP for Shetland, said there is “extremely limited” telephone and broadband service, which has huge repercussions for families and businesses across the islands.

“I am in limited contact with the Scottish Government to keep me updated on what can be done to resolve the incident as swiftly as possible,” she said.

Police and BT issued reminders that in an emergency, people can call 999 from a landline or mobile, even without a signal.

If this does not work, they should go to their nearest police station, ambulance station, fire station or hospital to report an emergency or try flagging down an emergency services vehicle that does not have its blue lights on.

A BT Group spokesperson said: “Engineers are working to divert services via other routes as soon as possible and we’ll provide further updates. Our external subsea provider is also looking to restore their link quickly.

“We’re sorry for any inconvenience.”