FIFTY thousand York properties lost their landline service when the telephone exchange in Stonebow was inundated by 1.8 million litres of floodwaters, BT has revealed.

The telecoms giants said it was carrying out a full risk assessment of the exchange to identify how it could best be protected if there was any repeat of the post-Christmas floods.

It was also engaging with Government via the 'Electronic Communications Resilience and Response Group' to better understand how flooding impacted the sector and what could be learnt from incidents such as York.

A spokeswoman said this was the first time the exchange had ever flooded and it was not previously thought to be at risk.

"Due to the sheer volume of flood water, mains power failed and then also our back-up generators, which are designed to kick in should mains power be lost," she said.

"Batteries then kicked in to support essential services. However, due to the access problems - flood water in the vicinity and the building itself- the batteries were exhausted before engineers were able to install mobile generators."

She said the service was lost just before 5pm on December 27 and BT started to restore it by 9pm the following day.

"At peak, we estimate around 50,000 phone users were impacted. However the vast majority were back up and running within 36 hours."

The Press reported at the time how the loss of landlines meant customers were unable to use credit and debit cards in many York shops and were also unable to get cash from many ATMs.

Meanwhile, Northern Powergrid, the region’s electricity network distributor, has confirmed details of how it prevented 50,000 customers from losing their electricity supplies when flooding threatened its sub-station in Melrosegate.

A spokeswoman said defences at the sub-station were not breached but water penetrated through the ground.

Built-in water pumps coped well but it became necessary to use a mobile pump stored on site and firefighters brought in pumps for a short period to speed up water removal.

She added that the company was carrying out a full debrief and would put into effect any necessary improvements.