Mystery underground explosions force 25 homes to be evacuated as 'major incident' declared in Devon

POLICE have declared a major incident after mystery underground explosions and tremors forced 25 homes to be evacuated in a Devon town.

Devon and Cornwall Police were called to reports of possible explosions from a suspected gas leak or electrical shortage coming from under the road in Church Street, Kingsbridge, at 11.50am.

Church Street has been closed and around 25 people from properties in the area have been evacuated, with temporary shelter being arranged.

Police confirmed this morning that one person has been taken to hospital following the ordeal.

The fire service are "currently investigating small underground fire involving low voltage power cable", they said in the latest update this afternoon.

Some 105 properties in the town were left without power and fire crews from three stations were attending the incident as efforts were made to make the area safe.

A force spokeswoman said: "No injuries have been reported.

"Fire, police and engineers from both gas and electric companies are on the scene.

"The public are being asked to avoid the area."

In a Facebook post, Kingsbridge Police said residents had reported "multiple explosions underground".

Residents had been evacuated as a safety precaution and a reception centre had been established to provide a "Covid-secure environment", it said.

The force wrote: "The incident has been declared a 'Major Incident' and numerous partner agencies are on scene.

"Some residents have been evacuated as a safety precaution and a reception centre has been established to temporarily 'house' these families, in a Covid-secure environment.

"At this time we are not aware of any serious injuries but one man has been taken to hospital.

"Roads are closed around the town centre and we ask you to avoid the area unless absolutely necessary. 

"Please avoid attending shops etc in Kingsbridge and stay at home. We will keep you all updated throughout the day."

In a later post, they added: "If you are one of the households who have been officially evacuated from their home because of the incident in Church Street, Gerri and the other staff members at Kingsbridge Food Bank are very kindly providing temporary shelter and refreshments.

"This is based at the old Avon Farmers store on Wallingford Road, TQ7 1ND. If you are shielding, isolating, or have symptoms of Covid-19, please make this known before attempting to enter the building.


"Devon County Council are setting up a dedicated phone line for anyone evacuated and are in the process of arranging overnight accommodation and transport should this be required.

"Engineers are on scene and attempting to rectify the earlier fault. Again, I shall keep you updated throughout the day should we have any further information."

Lee Cotton, Wales and West Utilities Gas Emergency Service Manager for South Devon, said: "We were called to reports of an explosion in the Church Street area of Kingsbridge this afternoon and immediately sent a team of engineers to the scene.

"On arrival we found that the road surface of Church Street had been damaged and emergency services were in control of the scene.

"We are working with the emergency services and electricity distribution network operator Western Power Distribution to investigate the cause of the explosion and make the area safe.

"If anyone smells gas, thinks they have a gas leak, or suspects carbon monoxide poisoning, they should call us on 0800 111 999 and our engineers will be there to help, day or night."

GeraldTaylor, Area Manager for Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, said on Twitter: "Just been in attendance at an incident in Church Street, Kingsbridge.

"Multi-agency response.

"Western Power currently investigating small underground fire involving low voltage power cable.

"Incident currently scaling down."

The incident is not thought to be related to Storm Christoph – which has plagued parts of Britain with flooding and heavy rain today.

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