Number of manhole explosions rises by more than 250% since 2010

The number of serious manhole fires and explosions in Britain has seen a dramatic increase from 34 in 2010 to a startling 124 so far this year. That’s an overall increase of well over 250%.

The latest incident occurred on Holloway Road, Islington in London, which coincidentally is the worst affected area this year, with 60 out of the 113 explosions in the South East occurring in the capital.

The explosion caused a power cut initially leaving 115 homes without electricity; however this soon rose to a total of 200 houses as engineers tried to fix the problem. Fortunately, no serious damage was done to human life, with the only casualty a lady who was treated for smoke inhalation.

Only months before had a similar event occurred, again in Islington, whereby faulty electrics caused a fire to burst out into a busy shopping area, resulting in the evacuation of 50 homes. And in July, a lorry was engulfed in flames when an explosion ripped through the manhole in a street in Piccadilly.

So what is causing these explosions? And why have they been happening more frequently?

It appears that the cause of the majority of fires and explosions can be put down to the ever ageing network of electricity distribution cables sparking when they come into contact with water.

However, many of the electricity distribution companies claim that the increase of the number of explosions is a result of two very wet winters. Mr Scarsella, Chief Executive of UK Power Networks (UKPN) and the man responsible 22,000 miles of electrical cable in London, states:

“There is some evidence that the age of the asset is a contributor… But more important is the increase in the amount of rain.”

The vast increase of explosions has led to the Health and Safety Executive warning UKPN, who supply London and the South East with electricity, to improve its safety record and Ian Adams, chairman of Westminster’s environment committee admits that:

“It is more by luck than planning that we haven’t had any serious injuries,”

Unless more is done to repair and update faulty electrical equipment, it is surely only a matter of time before our luck runs out and these explosions begin to take lives.

BT                                                                                                                                                 20.10.14

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