BUSINESSES and homes in Accrington town centre were evacuated after an underground explosion left properties without power.

Workers likened the huge bang to the sound of a ‘car crash’ as a manhole cover was blown into the air in Abbey Street.


One business owner said she was so alarmed the floor of her cafe shook that she flagged down passing police officers, who evacuated the area.

Firefighters set up a 50 metre cordon blocking both Abbey Street and Warner Street as they assessed the damage shortly after 2.30pm on Monday.

Electricity North West said the explosion, caused by a fault with an underground cable, left more than 60 properties without power.

Engineers spent the majority of last night at the scene trying to repair the damage with the aim of returning all power by 10pm.

Among the businesses to be evacuated were the Arden Inn and Hyndburn MP Graham Jones’s constituency office.

Andrew Jackson, manager of the Arden Inn, said: “We heard a huge bang. We thought it was a car crash.

“The manhole cover had blown two or three inches up and had come back down again.

“We had to leave the pub for about an hour and a half.”

Zara Boyle, 23, owner of the Broadwalk Cafe, said: “What alarmed us the most was the floor started shaking in the cafe.

“We didn’t know what was happening.

“Then the power went out. We were really worried.

“We flagged down a passing police car to report what was happening.”

Most of the businesses and residents were able to get back into their properties by around 5pm.

Rohit Vij, who runs Abbey Street shopping centre, which sells school uniforms, said: “The police and fire engines were in Abbey Street, near to the post office.

“The road has been sealed off and at 4pm there were no cars or pedestrians travelling in either direction.

“There was no electricity on the row where the post office is.

“It all seemed very dramatic, there was a big police and fire response.”

Engineers from Electricity North West repaired the manhole cover and the pavement damaged by the explosion.

A spokesman said: “An underground cable fault has caused external damage on Abbey Road in Accrington.

“Our engineers are carrying out a full investigation and ensuring the area is safe.

“We disconnected 60 properties in the surrounding area for safety while we carry out repairs.

“It is difficult to say what caused the problem but the key thing is to make sure it is safe.

“We would like to assure customers that incidents of this nature are extremely rare and we regularly maintain our underground network to ensure customers across the North West receive a reliable supply of electricity.”

Garry Drinkwater, watch manager from Hyndburn Fire Station, said: “We we called at 2.38pm to an explosion from a pavement.

“The explosion had lifted the manhole cover and surrounding bricks and tarmac.

“On arrival we used a combustible gas indicator that showed a high concentration of carbon dioxide. This was disposed off naturally.

“What caused the explosion was an old, overheated electrical substation.

“There were no casualties.”

Anyone needing more information should call Electricity North West on 0800 195 4141.