United Kingdom

Underground EXPLOSIONS force 25 people to be evacuated in Devon

Homes were evacuated in a Devon market town this afternoon following a suspected gas leak or electrical shortage that caused multiple explosions underground.

Police declared a major incident with 25 people from properties in Kingsbridge told to leave and one person taken to hospital following the incident at 11.50am. 

Temporary shelter was being arranged for those evacuated - with fire, police and engineers from both gas and electric companies sent to the scene in South Hams.

Some 105 properties in the town were left without power and fire crews from three stations were attending the incident as efforts were made to make the area safe.

A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said: 'Police were contacted at 11.50am to reports of possible explosions from a suspected gas leak or electrical shortage coming from under the road in Church Street, Kingsbridge.

'Church Street has been closed and around 25 people from properties in the area have been evacuated and temporary shelter is being arranged.

'No injuries have been reported. Fire, police and engineers from both gas and electric companies are on the scene. The public are being asked to avoid the area.'

And the local area's Kingsbridge Police said in a Facebook post: 'The incident has been declared a 'Major Incident' and numerous partner agencies are on scene.

'Some residents have been evacuated as a safety precaution and a reception centre has been established to temporarily 'house' these families, in a Covid-secure environment.

'At this time we are not aware of any serious injuries but one man has been taken to hospital. Roads are closed around the town centre and we ask you to avoid the area unless absolutely necessary. 

'Please avoid attending shops etc in Kingsbridge and stay at home. We will keep you all updated throughout the day.' 

In a later post, they added: 'If you are one of the households who have been officially evacuated from their home because of the incident in Church Street, Gerri and the other staff members at Kingsbridge Food Bank are very kindly providing temporary shelter and refreshments.

'This is based at the old Avon Farmers store on Wallingford Road, TQ7 1ND. If you are shielding, isolating, or have symptoms of Covid-19, please make this known before attempting to enter the building. If possible, please call us on 101 quoting Log 284.

'DCC (Devon County Council) are setting up a dedicated phone line for anyone evacuated and are in the process of arranging overnight accommodation and transport should this be required.

'Engineers are on scene and attempting to rectify the earlier fault. Again, I shall keep you updated throughout the day should we have any further information.'

Lee Cotton, Wales and West Utilities Gas Emergency Service Manager for South Devon, said: 'We were called to reports of an explosion in the Church Street area of Kingsbridge this afternoon and immediately sent a team of engineers to the scene.

'On arrival we found that the road surface of Church Street had been damaged and emergency services were in control of the scene.

'We are working with the emergency services and electricity distribution network operator Western Power Distribution to investigate the cause of the explosion and make the area safe.

'If anyone smells gas, thinks they have a gas leak, or suspects carbon monoxide poisoning, they should call us on 0800 111 999 and our engineers will be there to help, day or night.

'Before visiting, we'll ask you to let us know if you or anyone in your household, is experiencing Coronavirus symptoms or self-isolating. We'll still come and help you: but our teams will take some additional precautions to keep us all safe.'

A Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: 'This was a multi-agency response in Church Street, Kingsbridge. Western Power currently investigating small underground fire involving low voltage power cable. 

'Incident currently scaling down. We were called to the incident at 12pm and crews from Kingsbridge, Salcombe and Newton Abbot were at the scene.

'About 25 people were evacuated and were checked by the ambulance service. We still have one fire engine there from Salcombe.' 

Gerald Taylor, area manager for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, tweeted: 'Just been in attendance at an incident in Church Street, Kingsbridge. 

'Multi-agency response. Western Power currently investigating small underground fire involving low voltage power cable. Incident currently scaling down.'

The incident was not thought to be related to Storm Christoph which has caused major flooding across parts of Britain today following heavy rain and melting snow. 

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