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UK’s Shetland Cut Off From World After 2 Undersea Cables Damaged in ‘Very Rare’ Incident

Thousands of residents on Britain’s Shetland Islands are without phone and internet services after two undersea telecommunications cables were damaged just days apart, a situation that has been described as “very rare.”

Residents on the remote Scottish archipelago have not been able to access telecommunication services since the early hours of Oct. 20 due to the break in the cable connecting the islands to mainland Scotland, some 130 miles to the south.

Another cable, which connected Shetland to the Faroe Islands, which is part of Denmark, was damaged last week and is still being repaired.

The cause of the damage has not yet been confirmed.

Fishing trawlers have been blamed for similar damages in previous incidents, but experts say it is very unusual for two cables to be affected at the same time.

Páll Vesturbú, Faroese Telecom’s head of infrastructure, was quoted by British media as saying: “We expect it will be fishing vessels that damaged the cable, but it is very rare that we have two problems at the same time.”

‘Very Serious’

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the situation is “very serious” for Shetland.

She wrote on Twitter: “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.”

Alastair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland, 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 remain on the islands for “as long as necessary.”

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

He urged people to check on elderly or vulnerable people in their families and communities regularly, as “assistance alarms may not be operating correctly.”

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

A BT 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.”

PA Media contributed to this report.

Alexander Zhang


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