Firefighters rushed to London’s West End, Holborn and Kingsway areas after thick black smoke was seen billowing from a manhole cover – a fire had broken out in an underground utilities tunnel. Police declared a major incident and at its peak around 70 firefighters and 10 fire engines attended the blaze which was said to have caused “pavements to explode”.
UK Power Networks first called MEMS at 3pm on April 1st to activate a MEMS system emergency plan. Not knowing the full extent of the operation at this stage, MEMS needed to gauge an understanding of what resource was required in order to be able to move swiftly to put the MEMS emergency plans into action.
Alongside the fire and temperatures exceeding 1000 degrees there was a risk of a gas explosion. Until the gas authorities could isolate the supply of gas to the tunnel, engineers could not enter the area to make the urgent repairs.