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The failure affected telephone and internet customers all over the province of Malaga
14.05.11 - 17:34 -
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Fire leaves 90,000 clients with no telephone line
The building where the fire broke out. M. T.
A fire on Friday last week in the Movistar telephone exchange in the Huelin area of the city of Malaga left some 90,000 customers in Malaga and the rest of the province without a telephone line. In what is the biggest telephone failure in recent years 10,000 users lost their ADSL internet connection as well as their telephone line, an unknown number of mobiles stopped working as well as cash dispensers, credit card charging systems and alarms.
The fire broke out at 11.40 p.m. and it took firefighters around two hours to control the blaze although they were working in the building until 4 a.m. It is thought that the blaze was caused by lightning.
The damage affected the 091 and 061 emergency police and ambulance lines and calls were redirected to the general 112 emergency line which was overwhelmed with calls throughout Saturday morning. The police and ambulance lines were among the first to be reconnected on Saturday lunchtime.
Telefónica sources explained that the exchange is divided into two parts, and one was damaged to a greater extent than the other. Customers dependent on the section that suffered the least damage saw their lines reconnected by Sunday night, while the rest had to wait longer, many until Tuesday or Wednesday.
Widespread problems
Following the fire telephone lines were down in much of the city of Malaga, especially on the west side, as well as in Marbella, Fuengirola, Benalmádena, Torremolinos, Mijas, Benahavís, Ojén and Rincón de la Victoria, as well as the Antequera and Guadalhorce districts.
In Marbella a town hall official estimated that some 20,000 customers had been affected, including the municipal building itself.
It is estimated that around a thousand shops and restaurants in the province have lost out on a third of their sales after several days of being unable to accept credit cards.
Meanwhile pizza firms reported a loss of up to 70 per cent of sales as customers were unable to phone in their orders.
In Malaga all of the University’s outside lines were out of action at least until Tuesday and the provincial police station was unable to issue new identity cards or passports for several days.
Working round the clock
Meanwhile as many as a thousand technicians all over the country were working flat out to reconnect the lines as quickly as possible. Telefónica sources explained that some 200 employees were working at the scene of the fire, among them experts brought in from Madrid and Barcelona.
Eight mobile exchanges were taken to Malaga along with two trailers containing basic telephone service units, among other equipment. A team of employees of the firm that supplies Telefónica’s wires was also brought in to replace the damaged fiber optic cables, work that could take weeks to complete.
Reconnection
Telefónica announced on_Wednesday that 97 per cent of lines had been reconnected, although the company admitted that it could take “days” to bring the figure up to 100 per cent.
Telefónica Communications Director, Manuela Pineda, explained that by Wednesday 100 per cent of the phone lines and 95 per cent of ADSL lines had been connected to the exchange, but that in some cases the service was still not available. He pointed out that they had had to completely reconstruct the exchange and adjustments still have to be made.
Consumers
According to the law operators are obliged to compensate their customers for temporary interruptions in the service, although the amount depends on the cause of the failure. It is likely that this incident will be declared as being caused by ‘force majeure’ (probably due to lightning). In this case operators must “automatically compensate their customers by returning the part of the tariff that is proportional to the length of the interruption”. If the monthly tariff for a landline is around 15 euros, this works out at 50 cents a day.
Facua has called for the Junta de Andalucía to open its own investigation into the fire. Sánchez pointed out that the authorities should not take the company’s word for the cause of the blaze, especially as this could mean customers receiving “ridiculous” amounts that are “no compensation to the users”.

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