Fire underground causes chaos in London02 april 2015, 14:12
An underground blaze in central London Wednesday caused mass evacuations and forced several West End shows to cancel performances as fire fighters tackled the blaze which sent out a pall of thick smoke, AFP reports.
More than 2,000 people were forced to leave nearby buildings including the Royal Courts of Justice, after thick black smoke began emerging from the pavement on Kingsway, a major thoroughfare that cuts through the British capital from north to south.
As flames erupted from a manhole cover, the London Fire Brigade sent 10 engines and 70 crew to the scene, shutting the Holborn underground station and closing off streets close to the courts and the London School of Economics university.
Several prominent performances in the West End theatre district were cancelled due to the blaze, including "The Lion King", "Mamma Mia!", "Beautiful" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory".
"It may seem like an April Fool's joke (and you know what we're like!), but tonight's performance is most definitely cancelled #sorry," tweeted the Duchess Theatre's "The Play That Goes Wrong".
Show organisers urged those with tickets to contact the vendors they bought their tickets from to arrange refunds.
Firefighters, who believe the blaze was caused by an electrical fault among cables underground, said they could not start to tackle it "effectively" until all power supplies had been turned off.
Passersby said the thick smoke made it difficult to breathe, but the London Fire Brigade (LFB) said there were no reports of injuries.
"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," witness Nicola Foxfield, 29, said.
"It's chaos and fire engines are coming from every direction and there are so many people around."
After around eight hours, LFB said the fire was "under control".
"Around 21 firefighters will remain at the scene into the night to monitor," they said.
Judges, lawyers and staff were evacuated from the Royal Courts of Justice.
Other nearby buildings include the diplomatic missions of India and Australia, and Bush House, from where BBC World Service radio was broadcast until 2012.