Fire near Fortnum and Mason closes London street

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Media captionThis footage filmed by Ben Hubbard showed fire crews tackling the blaze

A street in central London was closed for several hours after a manhole explosion set a lorry on fire near Fortnum and Mason department store.

About 20 firefighters tackled the blaze on Piccadilly, which started at 22:55 BST on Wednesday.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said nearby buildings were evacuated but there were no injuries or arrests.

It comes as figures reveal the number of pavement explosions have increased from 49 in 2013 to 64 so far this year.

In 2011, there were nine pavement explosions, but this more than tripled to 31 in 2012, according to figures obtained by BBC London from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Image copyright TfL
Image caption Transport for London posted this picture of the incident on their Twitter account
Image copyright LFB
Image caption Fire crews managed to tow the van away

'Burst into flames'

A spokesman for UK Power Networks said it was carrying out an investigation into "a fire from a cable pit".

Restaurant manager Georgina Pectu, who saw the blaze on Wednesday night, said: "It was very, very scary because we could hear the explosion down there and we were afraid that any moment there could be a big huge explosion."

In February, 50 people were evacuated from Caledonian Road, Islington, north London, after a pavement burst into flames.

In April last year, a pavement exploded on Pimlico Road, in central London, narrowly missing a passer-by standing just yards away.

In 2012, a woman was injured in Shepherd's Bush, west London, when an explosion in a manhole knocked her off her bicycle.

The HSE said it has told the company which delivers electricity through London to do more to protect people.

John Steed, the principal specialist inspector for the HSE, said: "We called UK Power Network directors in and we've had a couple of meetings for them and we made it very clear that it's up to them to manage their assets a lot better and to carry out more inspections.

"As a result of that, they have got a couple of dedicated teams working in London on these link boxes and inspecting them."

The company has to check all 100,000 electrical link boxes under the capital's pavements.

UK Power Networks says it is investing £10m a year for the next eight years and that the safety of Londoners of its top priority.

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