Vandals have been blamed for causing the serious gas leak that prompted the shutdown of Belfast’s Ormeau Bridge and the evacuation of 200 people from their homes.
Roads Service spokesman Colin Brown said a gang removed casing on a gas pipe running under the bridge — one of the main thoroughfares in the south of the city
They then lit a fire that caused the exposed pipe to melt and ignite the gas, leading to explosions at two manhole covers.
Road Service engineer John McRobert said the bridge was safe and had not been damaged.
Firefighters were called to reports of a rubbish fire near the bridge on Monday night. Fire Service commander Chris Kerr said they were lucky to escape without iinjury when the explosions took place.
Some of the evacuated residents took shelter in Shaftesbury community centre while others were told to close doors and windows and put out any naked flames. All residents were able to return to their homes early yesterday.