BUXTON, N.C. - BUXTON, N.C. (AP) - Emergency management officials have issued a mandatory evacuation order for Hatteras Island visitors because of a widespread power outage that has already prompted thousands of tourists to leave Hatteras and neighboring Ocracroke Island on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

The Dare County Department of Emergency Management said in a statement Friday that the evacuation order is mandatory for all visiting Hatteras Island effective at 6 a.m. Saturday. It includes the island villages of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras.

Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative officials posted to Facebook Thursday that the breaker at Oregon Inlet was tripped about 4:30 a.m., causing a full outage for Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. Several hours later, crews found a fault on the transmission cable attached to the Bonner Bridge that has been under construction.

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Officials say they took that step as a safety precaution and because of growing uncertainty as to when repairs to a major transmission line would be complete.

Officials attributed the cause of the outage to contractors with PCL Construction, the company building the new Bonner Bridge, who reportedly drove a piling though an underground cable.

The spots are popular among tourists and summer vacationers from up and down the East Coast. Officials report about 9,000 customers are without power on the two islands — with over 7,700 on Hatteras alone.

The county's emergency management department says it's continuing to work with utility officials to restore power to levels that would allow visitors to eventually return.