Reporting by Marta Malagon and Tayo Popoola
The Met Police have declared a ‘major incident’ in central London as an underground electrical cable fire has spread under Kingsway and is affecting surrounding streets.
This caused the evacuation of thousands of workers and consumers in office blocks and shops.
Here’s the video report from our reporters Tayo Popoola and Marta Malagon at the scene:
Over 70 firefighters and ten appliances from the London Fire Brigade with specialist units from London Ambulance and Met and City of London police officers have had to close one of the busiest parts of central London.
Thick acrid white and black fumes have enveloped entire buildings and been so great they have been visible from people at the London Eye and Shard.
Holborn underground station has been closed.
Power supplies in the surrounding area have been shut down with traffic lights in the Strand and Aldwych being turned off.
London Fire Brigade Assistant Commissioner Peter Cowup said:
Crews are currently working to prevent the spread of the fire to surrounding buildings. We are working closely with the various electricity companies involved to identify the source and extent of the fire which is underground. As this is likely to be an electrical fire we have to ensure the power is off before we apply water to extinguish it.
We are working with our partners and implementing well-rehearsed plans to prevent the fire from spreading and to protect surrounding properties.
Our reporter Tayo Popoola interviewed a police officer who was extending the safety cordon and organizing the evacuation of people working in the area.
Our reporter Marta Malagon took the following images as more fire appliances arrived at the scene and the number of firefighters tackling the blaze doubled.
The alarm was raised after smoke was seen coming out of an inspection cover on the pavement.
The disruption to traffic and transport services has rippled out with roads closed in this large area of central London.
Transport for London warn of long delays remaining on all approaches to the closure points and on diversion in the area.
Closures remain both ways on Kingsway, Southampton Row & Waterloo Bridge northbound and High Holborn is closed as far as Red Lion Street and New Oxford Street.
Firefighters could not combat the fire with water until utility power companies disconnected electrical supplies.
It’s understood the fire spread quickly along multiple cables under the road in Kingsway causing the massive evacuation.
29 year old Nicola Foxfield said:
I was walking from Covent Garden towards Holborn and I could smell burning in the air. As I got closer I could see fire engines everywhere then I could see loads of thick, brown smoke rising off the road. It’s chaos and fire engines are coming from every direction and there are so many people around.
Specialist London Ambulance Service units have been on standby because of their expertise dealing with hazardous chemicals and fumes, but there have been no reports of any injuries.
Some of those evacuated have talked about difficulties breathing which cleared once moved away from the fumes.
Teacher Cath Davies said she’d been in a cafe waiting for a friend when customers were asked to leave:
Kingsway is blocked off and there are police and firemen everywhere. From the end of the street you could see smoke pouring out. It seemed to be coming from under a building. The area seems to be in darkness.
The Brigade was called at twenty minutes to one at lunch time. Crews from fire stations including Soho, Lambeth, Dowgate, Shoreditch and Euston are attending the incident.
The cause of the fire is not known at this stage.
By the middle of the evening the London Fire Brigade said the fire was under control:
The power has now been isolated and so the fire is contained. Crews are now able to access what remains of the fire and will be at the scene into the night damping down.