HILO, Hawaii — Hawaii County officials say they’ve received complaints from customers who called the county’s emergency water line after a water main break and were directed to call center operators in South Carolina.

Customers had sought information Sunday after the water main break caused an interruption in service in Hilo. George Lewitzki said he called the emergency number and didn’t get help from operators on the other end who told him they couldn’t offer much information because they were on the other side of the country.

“They told me that I would probably found out more about it and sooner than they would. I said, ‘How is that possible? Who’s going to call me? Who’s going to inform me what this is all about? I’d like to know what part of town to avoid because, obviously, they’re going to be digging up the street or something,” Lewitzki told The Hawaii Tribune-Herald (http://bit.ly/2dRjRhq).

Kawika Uyehara, the Department of Water Supply’s deputy manager, said customers were directed to an “after hours call center” and that the county is looking into ways to improve service.

County Civil Defense eventually issued a notice Sunday night alerting residents that the water main break was “in an inaccessible location of the upper Kaumana area of Hilo.”

Uyehara said the break occurred because of a fallen tree and that water service was restored to all customers Monday. He said he didn’t know how many customers were affected.

Lewitzki said his water was restored by Monday morning but he was more concerned about not being able to get information when he needed it most.

“It just blew me away that we had a major issue with the water and the phone was being answered 6,000 miles away, that jobs are being outsourced 6,000 miles away by our water company. And they couldn’t give us more than vague information. Why can’t they pay local people to keep us informed?”

Uyehara said the county apologizes for the incident, “and we are looking into how we can better service or customers and respond to the questions appropriately.”

Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/