Northern Ireland Electricity (N.I.E.) have condemned those responsible for an arson attack on an electricity sub-station near Temple Park in Galliagh on Friday evening.
An N.I.E. spokesperson told The Sunday Journal that the repair operation will cost “tens of thousands of pounds” and called for local communities to be vigilant.
“The fire caused extensive damage to the substation resulting in a network clean-up operation costing many tens of thousands of pounds,” the spokesperson said.
“This was a difficult repair job. Not only was the substation itself damaged by the fire but the vital cables supplying it were also damaged. Our repair teams worked throughout the night to install a new high voltage substation and replace the cables.
“We would once again stress how dangerous it is to tamper with electricity substations. Substations contain live equipment energised at several thousand volts of electricity. We would ask local communities to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity around substations or other electricity equipment to N.I.E. on 08457 643643 or to the P.S.N.I.”
Those responsible for the arson attack have been labelled as “mindless” by S.D.L.P. M.L.A. for Foyle, Mark H. Durkan.
The fire started at a sub-station beside Temple Park at around 6.45p.m. on Friday evening and resulted in the loss of power to over 3000 homes and businesses.
It is believed that young people in the area were using the sub-station as a place to store material for bonfires.
Local residents said that the sub-station caught fire after some young people set light to the bonfire material.
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, the P.S.N.I. and Northern Ireland Electricity (N.I.E.) arrived at the scene within minutes of the fire starting.
An N.I.E. spokesperson confirmed that over 3000 homes were affected by the fire but explained that engineers were able to restore power to 1,500 customers within an hour of the incident happening.
Speaking at the scene of the fire on Friday evening, Mr. Durkan said that the outcome could have been much more sinister.
“Not only have the mindless actions of a few youths caused great inconvenience to residents here, but they have also caused genuine upset and anxiety,” he said.
“It is extremely fortunate that the consequences of this vandalism have not been even more serious causing injury or significant damage to neighbouring homes.
“Tribute must be paid to the Fire Service for the manner in which they tackled the huge blaze and to N.I.E. staff who worked hard to ensure that the disruption to people’s electricity supply was minimal. The police have also played an important role at what has been an extremely stressful time for many.
“This incident highlights the damage that can be caused by youths playing with fire and I would urge all parents to ensure that their children are aware of and avoid these risks.”
Local Sinn Fein councillor for the area, Tony Hassan, was also at the scene. Colr. Hassan called for local residents to be vigilant and to contact local authorities if they spot bonfire material near electricity units.
“We are lucky that we are not sitting here talking about a fatality,” said Colr. Hassan.
“The young people were using the sub-station as a place to store their bonfire material. Young people have to realise that these sub-stations are very dangerous and I would appeal to residents all over the Shantallow, Carnhill and Galliagh areas to look out for where young people are storing such material.”
Local community worker Ollie Green praised the action of N.I.E. engineers.
“On behalf of the local community I would like to thank N.I.E. staff who worked through the night and the power has now been fully restored today [Saturday].
“Initially residents thought they would be without power for longer but because of the hard work of the statutory bodies the power was restored. Essentially we just want to say thank you.”