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Central London underground fire causes major disruption

02 April 2015

Roads around an underground blaze which raged in central London for nearly two days are unlikely to be fully open almost a week on, affecting businesses and public transport. The April 1 fire, beneath Kingsway in Holborn, caused major disruption and forced 5,000 people to be evacuated from the area.

Image: London Fire Brigade
Image: London Fire Brigade

Witnesses said the fire caused pavements to explode as nearby roads were closed off and thousands of properties lost power, forcing eight West End shows to cancel their performances. The fire was put out by London Fire Brigade on April 3 after burning for 36 hours.

The blackout affected much of the surrounding area, including many businesses and a total of 3,000 properties, according to UK Power Networks. 

On April 2, Richard Beddoe, Westminster City Council's cabinet member for city management, said there had been a "massive impact" on businesses in the area as he called for better investment in the capital's infrastructure.

He said: "We do not fully yet know what caused the fire in Holborn on Wednesday. However, pavements have exploded in central London previously and it is a very worrying trend.

"Our message remains the same - we want to see better investment in the capital's infrastructure, as it benefits the whole UK."

The cause of the blaze was an eight-inch gas main under the road. National Grid engineers worked to isolate the pipe but faced a number of complications.

"We cannot just turn a valve and switch off the gas because of safety reasons and impact on the wider gas network," a National Grid spokesman said. "This is a challenging operation due to the fire’s location, access to our gas pipe and other utilities in close proximity."

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