Fire Knocks Out Phone Service in St. John's, NL

Phone service is back to normal in Newfoundland after it was knocked out in about one third of the island late Friday night.

The outage, lasting more than five hours, began when a power cable at a telephone switching station in St. John's shorted out and started a small fire, Bell Aliant said.

The fire, reported at the Bell Aliant building in the Allandale neighbourhood of the city, broke out around 10 p.m. local time.

A technician at the scene extinguished the fire quickly before firefighters arrived, said Bell Aliant spokeswoman Brenda Reid.

With no 911 service, ambulances had to roam the streets looking for emergencies. People couldn't use automated bank machines or credit cards because of the outage.

An estimated 150,000 customers in and around the city were without phone and internet service.

Flights continued to land at St. John's airport throughout the evening, but controllers were unable to contact other airports.

Technicians worked for hours on the problem, and by 3 a.m. local time Saturday, Aliant said phone service had been restored. Internet service was back a few hours later.

Parts of this report are copyright 2006 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

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