Thousands evacuated as utility tunnel fire rages

Emergency services have been battling an electrical fire in a utility tunnel which continues to burn under the pavement in Kingsway, Holborn in London.

According to the BBC, around 5,000 people were evacuated from nearby buildings on Wednesday (1 April) after smoke was seen coming out of an inspection cover.

Six fire engines and 35 firefighters and officers remain at the scene of the Kingsway cable tunnel fire.

There remains a fire in the sub surface tunnel which involves a gas leak that the gas authorities are attempting to isolate. Local properties will be without gas supplies while the incident is being dealt with.

London Fire Brigade Assistant Commissioner Dany Cotton said: “This is a technically difficult and unusual incident to tackle as it is underground. Firefighting in tunnels is very hazardous and one of the reasons that the fire is still burning is because of the dangers involved in extinguishing the fire before the gas supply is shut down, which could result in the risk of a subsequent gas explosion. Firefighters have however been applying water through access points throughout the night, to control the spread of the fire.

“The fire is contained in the tunnel and we are making steady progress and working with the utility companies and the police to bring this incident to a close. Local road closures are still in place and it is affecting over one hundred businesses. We’d ask people to avoid the immediate area if possible.”

In a statement, National Grid, which operates gas transmission infrastructure in the UK, said: “National Grid is working to isolate the 8” gas pipe in Kingsway, Holborn which has been damaged by the recent fire in the utility tunnel. We are working with the emergency services and other utilities during this incident.

“The priority is to safely isolate the gas pipe and minimise the effect on gas supplies in the area. This is a challenging operation due to the fire’s location, access to our gas pipe and other utilities in close proximity. We cannot just turn a valve and switch off the gas because of safety reasons and impact on the gas network.

“We continue to work with the emergency services and other utility companies during this incident.”

Crews from fire stations including Soho, Lambeth, Dowgate, Shoreditch and Euston have all attended the incident. The cause of the fire is not known at this stage.

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