The demolition of three cooling towers at Didcot power station ended in chaos as spectators were forced to flee a huge ‘fireball’ and thousands of homes were left without power.
A controlled explosion brought down the disused towers – each standing at over 114m high – in just 10 seconds when it was detonated at 7am this morning.
Terrified eyewitnesses have described sparks “flying everywhere” and running from the scene in panic as power lines were brought down, with videos showing cables and a nearby electricity python in flames.
Didcot A in Oxfordshire ceased operation in 2013 after running for 43 years, and three of its towers were demolished in 2014. Four men died after the partial collapse of the boiler house at the plant in February 2016.
At least 49,000 homes in Oxfordshire were said to have lost power but many of these have since had power restored. Energy company Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks said on Twitter it is investigating the cause of the power outage.
“All of a sudden it was like a big fireball above us,” one local woman told Viral News.
“We all started running. We had our children with us.”
A man said: “I was stood underneath the pylon and then suddenly there were sparks everywhere. I’m burnt on my jacket. I even fell over and rolled out of the way.”
Another witness said: “We were standing underneath it [a cable]. There was a massive great bang and sparks, we looked up and the whole lot was in flames and sparking.
“Everybody was running everywhere. It burnt the bonnets of the cars underneath there. It burnt my jacket.”
The Didcot A coal-fired station was closed in 2013, after 43 years of running.
Three of its towers were demolished in 2014 and plans were in place to clear the site by the end of 2017, but in February 2016 the site’s boiler house collapsed, killing four workers.
It took months to recover the bodies of Christopher Huxtable, 33, Kenneth Cresswell, 57, John Shaw, 61, and Michael Collings, 53, from the rubble of the 10-storey building, which had been due for demolition when it collapsed.
Thames Valley Police and the Health and Safety Executive launched a joint investigation to consider corporate manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter and health and safety offences.