Surge in exploding manhole covers could be down to 'wettest year on record'

Health and safety watchdog has received reports of 64 incidents so far this year, compared to 51 for the whole of 2013

An increase in the number of reports of exploding manhole covers could be the result of faulty electrical cables damaged by the wettest winter on record.

There have been reports of 64 exploding or burning manholes so far this year, compared to 51 for the whole of 2013, according to figures released by the Health and Safety Executive and seen by the Sunday Telegraph.

In 2011 and 2012, there were nine and 31 reports respectively.

Experts believe the surge in incidents could be due to record-breaking amounts of rainfall recorded between December last year and February - the wettest winter since national records began, according to the Met Office - which could have seeped in to damaged underground power lines.

But such incidents could also be caused by other kinds of electrical faults and gas leaks.

Piccadilly Circus in central London was closed on Wednesday after multiple explosions blew off a manhole cover and set a lorry alight shortly before 11pm.

Witness Jon Hornbuckle tweeted that he saw “constant explosions every 3-4 seconds…. Low flames but huge thick black smoke.

“I was ten steps away and then BANG… Loads of fire,” he wrote.

There were no reported injuries.

Although the explosion was not directly linked to rainfall, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said that the fire was “believed to have been caused by an electrical fault beneath the manhole cover.”

The cause of the incident is being investigated.

A spokesperson for the HSE told the Sunday Telegraph that the watchdog has warned UK Power Networks, which runs manholes and distributes electricity in London, to improve health and safety checks.

John Steed, the HSE’s principal specialist inspector, said: “Last year when we recorded the increase, UK Power Networks sent off failed link boxes for examination and it was concluded moisture was the predominant cause.

“We called UK Power Networks’ directors in, and we have a couple meetings with them, and we made it very clear to them that we are expecting them to manage their assets a lot better, to carry out more inspections and, as a result of that, they have actually got a couple of dedicated teams working in London, just looking at these link boxes and inspecting them."

A spokesman for UK Power Networks said:

“We believe more faults are being reported and recorded, but this does not necessarily mean there has been an increase.

“Last year one of the wettest years on record, which may also be a factor because occasionally water can seep in to cables which have been damaged by third parties.

 “We regularly inspect, maintain and reinforce our network to ensure that London maintains its position as the most reliable electricity network in Britain.”

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us