January 21, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 61  

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Manhole covers blown sky high in downtown explosions

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

Anyone who happened to be walking through the Clarence and King St. area in downtown London Monday night may have thought the apocalypse had come. An underground explosion caused several manhole covers to be blown several feet in the air, with flames shooting out of them.

At roughly 7 p.m. Monday night the area of Clarence Street between Dundas and York Sts., and of King St. between Clarence and Wellington Sts. was evacuated, said Const. Paul Martin, spokesperson for the London Police Department.

The London Transit Commission was notified and stopped running buses through these areas, Martin confirmed. The roads were still closed at 10 a.m. yesterday morning.

“There was an underground network cable fault on a secondary cable,” explained Nancy Hutton, manager of communications for London Hydro. “This ignited and then the explosion occurred — we are still not sure of the cause.”

According to Hutton, crews were still assessing the situation on scene and trying to determine the extent of the damage. Roads were expected to re-open by approximately 11 a.m. yesterday, she said.

Hutton confirmed the explosion caused four manhole covers to blow off, adding no one was hurt in the incident.

“Not to this extent has this ever happened before [in London],” she said.

One of the firefighters on the scene witnessed two manhole covers, a half block apart, blow 12 feet into the air, said Rick Jefferson, public information officer for London Fire Services. “There was a rush of flame [from the manholes] which burned itself out and then a light haze of smoke in [Galleria] Mall and other businesses in the area.”

“Our vehicles were used to control traffic in the area around [Galleria] Mall and [firefighters] were dispatched to evacuate people out of the danger area,” he explained.

“We were told not to park over the manhole covers and [one truck] was repositioning just as a manhole exploded,” Jefferson said.



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