PICTURES

Fire at SingTel building disrupts services islandwide

A fire at the Bukit Panjang Exchange building yesterday afternoon led to outages in Singtel and Starhub's mobile, TV and phone coverage across the island. Several DBS ATMs were also affected, as well as AXS terminals and the Singapore Pools betting s
A fire at the Bukit Panjang Exchange building yesterday afternoon led to outages in Singtel and Starhub's mobile, TV and phone coverage across the island. Several DBS ATMs were also affected, as well as AXS terminals and the Singapore Pools betting system. -- PHOTO: ZAOBAO
A fire at the Bukit Panjang Exchange building yesterday afternoon led to outages in Singtel and Starhub's mobile, TV and phone coverage across the island. Several DBS ATMs were also affected, as well as AXS terminals and the Singapore Pools betting s
A fire at the Bukit Panjang Exchange building yesterday afternoon led to outages in Singtel and Starhub's mobile, TV and phone coverage across the island. Several DBS ATMs were also affected, as well as AXS terminals and the Singapore Pools betting system. -- PHOTO: ZAOBAO
Engineers working at the site of the SingTel building fire at Bukit Panjang. -- PHOTO: SINGTEL
Engineers working at the site of the SingTel building fire at Bukit Panjang. -- PHOTO: SINGTEL
Engineers working at the site of the SingTel building fire at Bukit Panjang. -- PHOTO: SINGTEL
Engineers working at the site of the SingTel building fire at Bukit Panjang. -- PHOTO: SINGTEL
A queue at the Singapore Pools outlet in Toa Payoh Lorong 1, where Mr Poon Tong Wah (centre), 85, was given a chair by staff. He had been queuing for more than five hours. Betting services in many parts of Singapore were disrupted by the fire, which
A queue at the Singapore Pools outlet in Toa Payoh Lorong 1, where Mr Poon Tong Wah (centre), 85, was given a chair by staff. He had been queuing for more than five hours. Betting services in many parts of Singapore were disrupted by the fire, which damaged 33 fibre-optic cables. Other services hit included SingTel’s fixedline voice, Internet, pay-TV and mobile services in the northern areas. Some StarHub services were also affected. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

A fire yesterday afternoon at a major SingTel building that houses key Internet equipment brought down banking, telecommunications and even betting services in many parts of Singapore for hours.

SingTel said in a statement released in the evening that a fire which started at 2pm at its Bukit Panjang Internet exchange damaged 33 fibre optic cables.

This disabled its fixed-line voice, Internet, pay-TV and mobile services in the northern part of Singapore, including Chua Chu Kang, Upper Bukit Timah and Woodlands.

It affected 60,000 fixed broadband lines, 30,000 mio-TV customers and 30,000 voice lines, a SingTel spokesman said.

Internet links of SingTel's corporate customers including several major banks and telco StarHub were also disrupted.

Bank users could not withdraw cash from a number of DBS and OCBC ATMs, or make payments at a quarter of the 860 AXS terminals islandwide at one point.

The worst-hit bank was DBS, as 18 of its 80-plus branches were affected, although ATM services at all but two branches were restored by 8pm. Two UOB branches were also affected.

StarHub's cable TV, broadband and digital voice services did not work for some customers too, although it was unclear how many were affected. In a statement, Mr Mock Pak Lum, StarHub's chief technology officer, said: "We lease some SingTel optical fibre capacity that runs through this exchange. We are monitoring the situation closely and working to restore services as soon as we can."

A Singapore Civil Defence Force spokesman said the fire, which was inside a cable room, was extinguished within 20 minutes with no reported injuries.

SingTel engineers only started restoration work after 6pm, when they could access the area.

SingTel estimated full restoration of all services to be completed by 6am tomorrow. Eight of the 33 damaged fibre cables had been restored by 9pm.

Across Singapore yesterday, many people queued for hours at several Singapore Pools outlets but were unable to place their bets before closing time. Retiree James Chong, 65, stood in line for over seven hours. "I queued until I was sixth in line, but I still can't buy... But okay, can save money. If my number is called I'll be so upset," he said in Mandarin.

The weekly Wednesday draw was conducted at the main Singapore Pools branch in Middle Road at 9pm instead of the usual 6.30pm, with sales at the branch - the only unaffected one - extended till 8.30pm.

In a statement yesterday night, the Infocomm Development Authority said "several operators" had reported disruptions to their fixed-line telephone, broadband, cable-TV and mobile services. "IDA is currently investigating the issue," its spokesman said.

itham@sph.com.sg

charyong@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Joanna Seow