38,000 households hit by blackouts as fire at substation causes mass power cut in London

29 March 2022, 14:10 | Updated: 29 March 2022, 15:03

The Rotherhithe Tunnel was closed due to the power outage
The Rotherhithe Tunnel was closed due to the power outage. Picture: LFB/Alamy

By Asher McShane

Thousands of homes have been left without electricity after a major power cut hit parts of London on Tuesday afternoon after a fire broke out at a substation.

Four fire engines and around 25 firefighters were called to the fire on Castor Lane in Poplar where part of the ground floor of a two-storey electrical substation was alight.

A spokesperson for London Fire Brigade said: "A 25-metre cordon is in place as a precaution. Around 100 people were evacuated from an adjacent depot and 1,500 students were evacuated from a college at the rear of the substation."

Station Commander Colin Digby, who is at the scene, said: "The fire is causing power outages which could affect around 38,000 customers. 

"The whole of the Docklands Light Railway line is suspended. Blackwall Tunnel and Rotherhithe Tunnel are also closed whilst crews work to make the scene safe.

"The Brigade was called at 1248. Fire crews from Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Shadwell and Plaistow fire stations are at the scene."

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The cause of the fire is not known at this time.

UK Power Networks said there was a power cut affecting the E1 E1W and E14 postcodes, leaving many Londoners unable to work from home, heat food or turn on water pumps.

"Our engineers are working to get the power on as soon as possible," they said on Twitter.

The UK Power Networks website suggests households in Tower Hamlets and Hackney in east London have been hit but some places in south London – including Southwark, Bromley, Bexley and Mitcham – have also reportedly been impacted.

Many of those affected are working from home and reported internet outages, and there were also multiple traffic lights affected and some people said their water had been cut off as a result of some pumps going down.

Whilst one distressed mother wrote: "Please get it back on ASAP I have to walk up a autistic child in a pram up 13 flights of stairs if no lifts still by time he finishes nursery."

Another man posted: "Just walked home from doing a 50 minute Crossfit class at the gym to find there's been a huge power cut in my building... and I live on the 18th floor. I could cry."

UK power networks said it estimated power would return between 3 and 4pm today after the outage last night.

The Rotherhithe Tunnel was closed due to the power failure and the DLR was suspended.

The TFL announced that the DLR said it is suspended due to "fault communications equipment", although they haven't confirmed it this is related to the blackout. 

It said: "Docklands Light Railway: No service while we fix faulty communications equipment. London Underground, Southeastern and C2C accepting tickets via any reasonable route."

This story is being updated