Netherlands' emergency phone line down nearly 4 hours

Officials gave out number for newspaper instead

By Sheena McKenzie and Rose Roobeek, CNN
FreeImages.com/Nimalan Tharmalingam

(CNN) - Dutch authorities are investigating how emergency lines went down for almost four hours in the country's worst telecoms outage in living memory -- during which the number of a national newspaper was given out instead.

People across the Netherlands were unable to access the 112 emergency number, the equivalent of the United States' 911, on Monday afternoon due to a problem with national carrier KPN.

The government then had another headache after sending an alarm system message to people's phones, which promptly advised them to call an alternative number.

The message told people to instead call the Telegraaf newspaper's WhatsApp tip line. Another alert was later sent out correcting the mistake and Ferd Grapperhaus, the minister of justice and safety, said he contacted the paper personally to express his regret.

Additional emergency personnel were deployed onto the streets after KPN's back-up facilities failed to kick in, Grapperhaus said in a statement.

Authorities also urged people in need to head directly to police stations, fire departments and hospitals.

Other phone networks -- including VodafoneZiggo and T-Mobile -- access 112 through KPN, meaning their customers were also affected in the outrage.

The company said in a statement it "regrets" the incident and was investigating the cause of the outage. It added that the number "112 has always been a vital service for Dutch society and must be available at all times."

Similarly, Grapperhaus said that people in an emergency "must be able to trust that quick and adequate emergency assistance is available via the emergency number 112."

"In the interest of those in need, the continuity of the system is now a priority."

CNN's Stephanie Halasz contributed to this report.

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