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Smoke on the Tyne: Blaze at BT exchange causes major outages across North East England

Flames contained – but expect slow 'staged restoration' of services

Thousands of customers of BT's fixed-line broadband and telephone services are experiencing major disruption in North East England after an exchange in Newcastle caught fire.

PlusNet, TalkTalk and EE customers are also affected, as well as smaller broadband slingers using BT's wholesale network. Specialist ISP Andrew & Arnold began reporting issues around lunchtime earlier today, quoting BT as saying: "We are currently experiencing a fire in one of our exchanges in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

"The fire brigade are on site and mains power to the site has been isolated. This is impacting all services in the area. All of our technical and emergency response teams are engaged and our Major Incident Management team are co-ordinating activities."

One Reg reader told us: "We have been advised there is a big fire in a core BT exchange in the Northeast... Looks to be having a major impact." Another got in touch to say it had taken "out internet for a large number of providers".

A source has told us that BT declared MBORC [matters beyond our reasonable control] and The Reg has attempted to confirm this with BT. It's not great timing for businesses hit by COVID-19.

DownDetector shows folk in Newcastle, Sunderland and Gateshead reporting the most issues. Service interruptions have also been reported further afield in Durham.

In a statement provided to El Reg, a BT spokesperson said: "We're aware some customers are currently experiencing problems when trying to make calls or connect to the internet. This is due to a fire in Newcastle, which has now been contained. Our engineers are on site and working quickly to resolve this. We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused."

At the time of writing, it's not clear how the fire started – although a tweet from local radio station Capital NE claims it started at a transformer supply unit.

However, local businesses have been disrupted with some GP surgeries unable to take calls, restaurants prevented from accepting Deliveroo orders, and multiple internet services hit as people work from home.

Although BT says the fire has been contained, it is not yet known how much equipment and cabling will need to be replaced in order for things to return to normal.

Andrew & Arnold told customers BT had informed it: "Due to the staged restoration of the power, to ensure surges do not cause further disruption, you will not see all services restore at the same time."

If you know something about how this happened, contact us securely here. ®

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