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Blaze in underground tunnel brings chaos to central London

Firefighters have brought a cable tunnel fire under control that knocked out power in central London after a ‘technically difficult’ operation.

Firefighters are still on the scene this morning at a fire in the Holborn area, after a blaze in a service tunnel led to mass evacuation and hit utilities.  

The fire, on Kingsway by Holborn underground station, took almost eight hours to get under control with around 70 firefighters on the scene at its height. The alarm was raised at 12.39pm yesterday and the fire was under control at 8.10pm. This morning 21 firefighters were still on the scene. The alarm was raised after smoke was seen coming out of an inspection cover on the pavement.

London Fire Brigade assistant commissioner Peter Cowup said: “This has been a technically difficult incident to tackle. The reason that the fire is still burning is because the service tunnel is hard to reach and although firefighters have been applying water through access points throughout the night, the complexity of the tunnel layout means that it will be some time until the fire is fully extinguished

“However, the fire is contained and we are making steady progress and working with the utility companies and the police to bring this incident to a close.”

Around 2,000 people were evacuated yesterday afternoon from offices as smoke spread across the area.

UK Power Networks said it had restored power to 1,300 customers yesterday and worked overnight to restore power to another 600 customers. It is aiming to restore all power with generators and cable works as soon as possible.

London Fire Brigade’s Cowup added:  “Crews worked closely with the various electricity companies involved to identify the source and extent of the fire which was underground. As this was likely to be an electrical fire we had to ensure the power was off before we applied water to extinguish it.”

The precise cause of the fire is not known at this stage.

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