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Thousands of businesses in the North West of England have been buried by an avalanche of email today following a mailshot plugging a chamber of commerce yearbook.

Publishing company McMillan-Scott sent the email last night to thousands of companies which belong to the North West Chambers of Commerce. For some reason the email was sent repeatedly to companies overnight clogging up in-boxes with as many as 5,000 emails.

Although an investigation is underway, it's suspected that the email was either hit by some worm or virus, or a software bug. A spokesman for the publisher "sincerely apologised" for the cock-up explaining it had been an "horrendous day".

Manchester-based ISP UKFast, which handles internet services for many companies in the region, said it has handled well over a quarter of a million emails and reckons that companies will be swamped for days to come. Said UKFast supremo Lawrence Jones: "We have been on the phone since 8.30 this morning because our clients were unable to receive or send emails. I am sure, it will greatly affect productivity of the businesses hit by the spam wave."

Nick Mann, md of Manro Managing Consulting, one of those companies hit by the email tsunami, told us: "Initially, I received around 5,000 emails and had to get rid off my entire in-box content. Consequently, I deleted important emails of my clients and am now falling behind on my deadlines." ®

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