A man, a blowtorch and the crisis at SingTel

SINGAPORE - All it took was one errant employee with a blowtorch to disrupt fibre-broadband services for thousands of people and deny many access to bank services.

In a statement issued yesterday, SingTel said the Oct 9 fire at its Bukit Panjang cable facility was caused by an employee who had not followed strict maintenance procedures. This included the use of an unauthorised blowtorch.

SingTel was giving an update after its preliminary investigations into the cause of the fire were completed.

The fire had affected fibre-broadband services for 60,000 SingTel customers, and disrupted mio TV services for 44,000 of its customers.

StarHub said about 35,000 customers had experienced fibre-broadband problems, while M1 said about 1,000 fibre-broadband customers could not go online.

Bank customers could not withdraw money from some DBS and OCBC ATMs, or make payments at a quarter of the 860 AXS terminals across Singapore after the fire.

SingTel said that the incident occurred during maintenance work and the fire was "localised". As a result of successful rerouting, services for most customers served by the Bukit Panjang facility were not interrupted.

The telco said it has since strengthened processes and measures to prevent similar incidents from happening.

These include limiting maintenance work that requires heat to be used, using better tools and equipment, and reinforcing training on safety requirements and operations.

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