MORE than 1,500 businesses and homes were left without power as the lights went out in Bournemouth yesterday.

Restaurant reservations were cancelled, haircuts went unfinished and shoppers were plunged into darkness.

Commercial Road, Exeter Road, Exeter Park Road, Bourne Avenue and Cranborne Road were all hit by a huge power cut, believed to have been caused by Southern Gas, which cut through a cable near the Moon in the Square pub.

The electricity went out in 1,500 businesses and households, with some of Bournemouth’s big-name brands affected.

The businesses hit by the power cut include:

  •  Debenhams – the store was able to keep open with power from a generator, but escalators and lifts were out of action
  •  Burger King – the assistant manager predicted a loss of at least £500 as doors closed over the busy lunchtime period
  •   Tesco Metro – shoppers gathered outside the doors as they waited to buy lunch
  •  Next – a sign was placed on the window and the doors stayed locked for over an hour
  •  La Tasca – staff sat at the bar and waited for the lights to come on
  •  Clarks – shoppers were turned away for more than an hour
  •  The Moon in the Square 

Managers were told it could be hours before the electricity went back on At Tesco Metro, Simon Peckham, who works in security, was forced to turn hundreds away.

He said: “A fair few businesses are closed at the moment.

“We’ve been closed for about half an hour so far. There’s no word on how long it’s all going to take at the moment. We have emergency generators to keep the food cool, but the tills are out and it’s a health and safety matter, so we have to stay closed.”

The manager of La Tasca, Marchin Pochec, said the power cut could not have happened at a worse time.

“We’ve got lots of bookings, so it’s a concern,” he said.

“It’s Friday at lunchtime – a busy time for us. We are having to turn people away.”

Scissors Salon was forced to send people home with dripping wet hair when the power went out.

Receptionist Georgina Dibben said: “A lot of our clients booked for today have had to go home with wet hair because we can’t use hairdryers.

“There are people with half of their hair cut. What can you do? We’re just hoping the power comes back soon.”

Clarks shoe shop assistant manager Kelly Robinson said staff had to close their doors when the lights went out.

She said: “It’s really quite bad – we couldn’t believe it when it happened.

“I was upstairs and the next thing I knew, it was just totally black. We’ve just opened the doors to customers again, but we’ve had no power for about an hour. It’s freezing inside.”

Burger King was another big name which had to wait for lights to come back on.

Assistant manager Jamie Cooper said: “We had the snow last week, now this.

“We’re just waiting to see what happens – there isn’t really much else we can do. We don’t know how long it’s going to be off for. It’s bad timing – right over lunchtime.”

He said at least £400 would have been lost from lunchtime.

A Southern Gas spokesman said: “Southern Gas Networks were working in the vicinity of Exeter Road in Bournemouth today carrying out new gas connections. “Early indications are that we may have accidentally damaged an electricity cable during the course of our works and we are working closely with Southern Electric Power Distribution on site.

“We will be working with SEPD to investigate the cause further.”

Shops have to close doors

Nigel Hedges, president of Bournemouth Chamber of Trade and Commerce,  pictured, said businesses must close their doors when there is a health and safety concern.

He said: “You only realise how important your utilities are when they are gone.

Bournemouth Echo: Nigel Hedges, president of Bournemouth Chamber of Trade and Commerce

“Obviously without power for their lights, heating and security systems these businesses can’t open, which means no customers and no income for four hours in a quiet month.

“There are health and safety concerns; if someone trips up because it is dark the business would be liable, and they may have valuable stock which would be at risk with alarms and CCTV out of action.

“I have to say, in my 38 years here I have always found the utility companies take these events very seriously and deal with them quickly, especially in the town centre. Power cuts are usually brief, so to have one lasting this long suggests it is a serious problem.

“The priority must be to get the problem fixed as soon as possible.”

Customers thanked for patience

SOUTHERN Electric yesterday apologised to all the customers affected by the large-scale power cut in Bournemouth.

They said the loss of power began at around noon following reports of third-party damage to one of their high voltage cables.

An engineer was called to central Bournemouth and identified that the damage took place in Exeter Road. Workers remained on site until all power was restored.

Hannah Gleave, spokeswoman for Southern Electric, said: “Initially, 1,500 customers were affected and our engineers managed to re-route electricity supply to all but 171 customers by around 1pm.

“All customers were restored just before 2.10pm.

“We would like to apologise to all customers who have been affected.”

She added: “We would like to thank customers for their patience wh