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Phone lines still down after lightning strike

10:32 14 January 2013

Stephen and Stella Huyshe-Shires by their Christmas trees and the telegraph pole they think was struck by lightning

Stephen and Stella Huyshe-Shires by their Christmas trees and the telegraph pole they think was struck by lightning

Archant

Sidbury residents are still living “in the dark ages” three weeks after a lightning strike knocked out the phone line.

The storm surge in Roncombe Valley caused electricity to arc between phone and power lines, circuits to be burnt together and communications equipment in homes irreparably damaged.

The occupants of historic house Sand were selling one of the Christmas trees they grow to a father and his two children when the bolt struck.

Stephen Huyshe-Shires said: “There was some hail, then a few rumbles of thunder – all of sudden there was a ball of light and an almighty bang.”

The lightning struck yards from the pines, which they donate to churches across the Sid Valley.

After finding that the power was still on, Stephen heard from a neighbour that the telephones had not fared so well.

“It had blown his phone sockets eight feet across the room,” said the 63-year-old.

“Suddenly we were back in the dark ages.”

A lack of mobile signal in the valley, combined with the damage to the phone and internet connections, meant that residents were cut off for much of Christmas.

Many of the 18 houses are still not back online, although BT engineers have been working around the clock for the last three weeks.

Stephen’s wife Stella, 62, said: “They were out there the next day, and there have been three or four engineers every day since.”

Now retired, she volunteers for the charity Lyme Disease Action, answering correspondence via email, so she has had to take all her work to a friend’s in Sidford.

Cabling has had to be replaced all the way up the valley, but the full extent of the problem will not be clear until they can check their broadband.

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