The 7.5 magnitude earthquake that struck the South Island in the early hours of Monday morning created widespread disruption to communications services, including briefly disabling the national 111 service.
NZ Police issued a statement telling people to call their local police station, saying calls would be forwarded to a Police Communication Centre for actioning.
Spark issued a statement saying: “For a period of approximately 30 minutes immediately following this morning’s first earthquake at 12.05am, the 111 operator service was unavailable. This was because the call centre that answers and re-directs 111 calls, based in Featherstone Street Wellington, was damaged by the earthquake and staff had to be evacuated immediately.”
Spark explained that the normal procedure when the 111 call-centre is affected by a natural disaster is to re-route 111 calls directly to each of the emergency services,while the back-up 111 call-centre, in this case in Porirua, is activated.
However the team attempting the switch was impeded by ceiling tiles and air-conditioning equipment landing on the desk being used to make the switch and failed to implement it correctly.
At this point, Spark says, a secondary contingency procedure was invoked, which involved a remote switchover of the service, managed from the Network Operating Centre in Hamilton. This process was implemented and 111 service was then restored with emergency services able to field 111 calls directly from that point.
However at 9:50 am Spark reported that people in Kaikoura or North Canterbury area might still be having difficulty contacting 111 services.
It said customers in Kaikoura and Blenheim were experiencing general connectivity problems due to damage to the fixed network, and power outages affecting mobile cell sites around the area.
“People in or near those areas may have limited or no access to landline, broadband and mobile services,” Spark said.
“A further eight mobile cell sites around the affected area are running on back-up battery power and Spark is working to ensure they are re-connected to the mains or to a backup generator.”
Vodafone issued a 5:30 am report saying power outages caused by the quake had impacted a number of sites and these had switched over to backup generators. In addition, it said a small number of sites mainly in the Wellington and Christchurch regions had gone down but some cases customers were able to get coverage from nearby functioning sites.