Parts of East Belfast went dark last night about 4.25pm.
I’d made it through the turnstile into the work car park just before most of the lights suddenly went out. And while the card reader on the car park exit was wired up to the assured supply, the actual barrier wasn’t. But since no one else could get into the car park through the turnstile, only three cars queued up at the barrier wondering whether the power problems were more widespread that our concrete bunker.
According to an NIE press release this morning,
Northern Ireland Electricity today warned contractors to dig with caution or pay the price. The stark warning follows an incident in the Rochester Drive area of East Belfast last night (Wednesday 13th February) when 5,000 customers lost electricity supplies after a contractor, working on the water network, hit and damaged a high voltage transmission cable.
The incident occurred at 4.25pm, affecting electricity supplies to properties and traffic signals in the area. NIE emergency crews responded immediately, restoring all customers to power within half an hour.
NIE engineers and emergency crews worked through the night to uncover the extent of the damage and NIE Safety and Risk Manager, Roy Coulter, says the repairs could take weeks to complete.
“NIE has warned contractors time and time again to use extreme caution when working in the vicinity of underground cables … While NIE will recoup the cost of the repairs from the contractor, this does not address the inconvenience to customers in surrounding areas and the danger the contractors put themselves in.”
The effect was quite widespread, with the Hilton Hotel affected and some folk temporarily trapped in lifts.
Our car park shutters were already up, so bikes and mopeds could squeeze out. And eventually when someone touched the entrance barrier’s arm, it swung up and the cars escaped too before the power came back on.