Manhole explodes in West Hampstead plunging shops into darkness

A manhole exploded in West Hampstead throwing up plumes of smoke and plunging shops and cafes into darkness yesterday (December 12).

Onlookers saw smoke gushing from the ground and reported a strong smell of gas after the incident at 4.20pm.

Remus Petrea, 24, of Town Road in Edmonton Green, was selling the Big Issue outside the Sainsbury’s Local store when the explosion happened.

He told the Ham&High: “I felt something rumbling under my feet, it felt like something was blowing up underground and a minute later smoke exploded from the ground.”

Katarina Makova, 27, from Wembley Park, said: “There was a lot of smoke and it smelled like burning cables. It was horrible.”

Wayne Nixon, 30, from High Wycombe, works next door at the Love Food caf� and said they had lost power due to the blast.

“All the lights kept flickering on and off and I looked outside and all the lights on the street had gone out,” he said.

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A launderette on the street lost valuable afternoon business due to the power cut.

The Fire Brigade arrived minutes after the explosion and extinguished the smoke within 20 minutes.

A fire fighter at the scene said: “Sometimes man holes do explode and go up in the air.

“We don’t want to touch it because we don’t know what the cause is.

“Our job is to keep people away from it until the electrical company arrives.”