SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

August 1, 2010

Manhole explosions shake downtown Salem

SALEM — At least five manholes exploded Saturday night in the downtown area, resulting in evacuations of residents but no injuries, fire officials said.

All of Crombie Street was evacuated following a series of explosions underground. The cause of the explosions is under investigation.

Salem fire Deputy Chief Brian Harrington said police received several 911 calls about an explosion just before 11 p.m. at the intersection of Essex and Crombie streets, near the YMCA. When firefighters arrived, there was smoke coming from two manholes, and soon firefighters could see heavy fire, Harrington said.

Firefighters could not spray water into the manholes because they were not sure if the electrical lines underneath were still charged. The only weapons they had were dry chemical extinguishers.

As firefighters were assessing the damage, Harrington walked down Crombie Street near the former shelter where a group of people were on the sidewalk.

"I advised them to get back in the building," Harrington said. "Then, two manholes just exploded."

The blast, which shattered nearby windows and destroyed the brick sidewalks, could be heard as far away as Peabody.

Following the explosion, police and firefighters began immediately evacuating Crombie Street. Harrington said residents of the elderly housing on the top two floors of the YMCA were kept there as of early Sunday morning.

The deputy said "luck" was on the city's side because the explosions and the projectile manhole covers could have caused serious injuries.

Saturday night is typically busy in downtown Salem. While the explosion occurred more than an hour before closing time for local bars, the streets are a heavy traveled by cars and pedestrians.

"We're very fortunate there were no injuries," Harrington said.

The cause of the explosions is under investigation. National Grid was on scene.

National Grid spokeswoman Amy Zorich said shortly after midnight that crew members report an overhead line outage that has extended into the company's underground network. If the trouble lies underground, crew members’ ability to pinpoint the cause, and therefore fix the problem, "is more complex," she said.

And while the utility company is investigating, it has "de-energized" the area extending to approximately 600 homes, she said. Zorich could not immediately be sure exactly what area, but the manhole covers were said to explode near Essex and Crombie streets and Essex and North streets.

One worker was sent to the substation to see if the breaker was open or if it was tripped by the explosion, she said.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News

AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Comments Tracker