HUNDREDS of homes and businesses in Seaton Delaval have been left without telephone and internet connections for two weeks after thieves stole a mile-and-a-quarter length of copper cable.
Thousands of pounds worth of cable were stolen in the early hours of Wednesday, August 17, hitting 900 customers.
As workers from BT worked to fix the lines, hoping to complete their repairs by yesterday, doctors’ surgeries, a chemist and other businesses have had to make do without phone connections.
Resident Nigel Hall said: “It has affected a large area and paralysed Seaton Delaval for the first few days, including essential services.
“The problem I have is the fact that I do not believe it is being treated as an emergency.”
A BT spokesperson said: “Engineers have been working on replacing the cable and have started working on connecting up each of the individual lines affected.
“The nature of the damage makes it painstaking work to repair, and in this particular incident, extensive damage has been done to both the ducting and joints, causing further delays.”
Those affected included Seaton Delaval Library and hundreds of homes.
A spokesperson for Northumberland County Council said it was hoped the library’s telephone and internet would be back in operation this week.
BT has joined forces with Crimestoppers to offer a reward of £1,000 for information leading to the arrest of the culprits.
Margaret Richards, county councillor for Seaton Delaval and Seghill, said: “This has caused chaos.
“People think it is just someone stealing a little bit of copper and making a few pounds, but this is playing with people’s lives.
“Hundreds of homes have lost phone and internet connections, and many elderly people have been stranded, with their families unable to contact them.
“The people who commit these crimes need to receive tougher sentences.”
Police inquiries into the cable theft are ongoing.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Reeve said: “This theft of copper cable has inconvenienced a great number of people, and the thieves responsible for incidents such as this are having an impact on the wider community.
“On occasions, such as the theft of copper gas pipes, these crimes can put people’s lives at risk.
“Operation Coin is an ongoing initiative to stop metal thieves in the county and has so far been successful in preventing and detecting offences.
“Since it started, more than 2,000 vehicles have been stopped and 50 people arrested, while stolen property has been recovered.
“We’ll continue running this operation to stop metal thieves in their tracks.