By Bernie Woodall
(Reuters) - A power outage that led to evacuations on two Outer Banks islands in North Carolina could last 10 days longer, utility officials said on Tuesday, a day after some businesses sued to recover losses during the height of the summer vacation season.
About 50,000 visitors have been evacuated from the islands, Hatteras and Ocracoke, since underground transmission lines were cut in a construction accident last Thursday, officials from Dare County and Hyde County said.
It will take another six to 10 days to reconnect power to the Outer Banks south of Oregon Inlet, the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative said on Tuesday.
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A lawsuit filed in Dare County on Monday on behalf of some tourist-reliant businesses said PCL Civil Constructors of Raleigh, North Carolina, was operating in haste to finish a $250-million project to construct a new three-mile bridge.
"In order to win the contract, PCL claimed it could save $60 million or more by working under an accelerated schedule," the firm that filed the suit, Wallace and Graham of Salisbury, North Carolina, said in a statement. "In the process of trying to proceed with the work, the power lines were cut."
A PCL spokeswoman, Stephanie McCay, said in an email on Tuesday the company would wait to comment on the suit in court.
About 5,000 residents remain on Hatteras Island in Dare County and about 900 residents remain on Ocracoke Island in Hyde County, officials from the two counties said.
Tourism generates about $1 billion annually in Dare County, and about a quarter to 28 percent of that comes from Hatteras Island where tourists are temporarily prohibited, said county spokeswoman Dorothy Hester.
During a news conference on Monday, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said he would attempt to help recover funds for those who sustained losses. Cooper declared a state of emergency for Hatteras and Ocracoke last week.
"Clearly, this was a company's fault and I think that we should work hard to make sure that people are made as whole as possible," Cooper said.
Much of the Outer Banks remains open, including cities such as Kitty Hawk and Nags Head north of the bridge where the power cables were severed.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and James Dalgleish)