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Firms still hit by underground fire

Places around an underground fire that blazed for more than 24 hours are still unlikely to be fully open for business almost a week on.

Some 2,000 people were evacuated on Wednesday when police declared a major incident in Kingsway in Holborn, central London, after a blaze started in a service tunnel beneath the major road.

Witnesses said the fire caused ''pavements to explode'' as nearby roads were closed off and thousands of properties lost power, forcing West End shows to cancel their performances.

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement that they have been made aware by partner agencies that some areas around Kingsway affected by the fire are "unlikely to be fully opened for business after the Bank Holiday weekend".

The force said closures will continue to affect the running of public transport services in the area and added that people are advised to make alternative arrangements, as well as checking Transport for London updates.

Road users are advised to avoid the affected areas, while residents and businesses should monitor Camden and Westminster Councils' websites for updates.

A spokesman for Camden Council said traffic may not be able to use the road until Wednesday, adding that this would pose delivery problems for businesses.

He said there was talk of putting in place an escorted delivery system for the time being.

On Thursday, Richard Beddoe, Westminster City Council's cabinet member for city management, said there had been a ''massive impact'' on businesses in the area as he called for better investment in the capital's infrastructure.

He said: ''We do not fully yet know what caused the fire in Holborn on Wednesday.

''However, pavements have exploded in central London previously and it is a very worrying trend.

''Our message remains the same - we want to see better investment in the capital's infrastructure, as it benefits the whole UK.

''We are relieved to hear that there were no serious casualties, but the losses to big businesses in the West End, due to poor infrastructure, is just not acceptable.

''We want to see action.''

A number of underground fires have been reported in London in recent years. In July, Piccadilly Circus in central London was closed after an electrical fault beneath a manhole cover caused an explosion which resulted in a lorry catching fire.

Meanwhile, in February last year, 50 people were evacuated from a street in north London after a pavement burst into flames.

And in April 2013, a fireball burst from a pavement in Pimlico Road, central London, narrowly missing a passer-by standing yards away.

The cause of the Kingsway fire remains unknown.

At the fire's peak, around 70 firefighters and 10 engines attended.

The alarm was raised after thick black smoke and flames were seen rising from drains.

Camden Council said it has been a "complicated incident", adding that businesses which have suffered losses as a result of the fire should contact their insurers.

The council said its priority throughout the whole incident has been to ensure people's safety.

"As a result we have had to ask for a bit more patience from businesses before the area can be fully open for business.

"Most of Kingsway has now reopened to pedestrians, but restrictions to vehicle traffic will remain in place along both carriageways of Kingsway until at least Wednesday so we would ask commuters to consider alternative routes to work on Tuesday.

"Part of Keeley Street and Great Queen Street will also remain closed.

"Unfortunately we are not in a position to confirm arrangements for deliveries to premises in Kingsway, and businesses are advised to continue checking our website for an update concerning deliveries."

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