Flames and smoke coming up out of a manhole on the A259 in Brighton led to the closure of the seafront road during the rush hour last night.
A number of buildings in King’s Road were evacuated as firefighters tackled the underground blaze.
Among those evacuated were the England rugby team, including Eddie Jones, his players and support staff, who had been staying at the Harbour hotel in King’s Road, at the bottom of West Street.
The squad, currently training in Brighton as they prepare for the start of the Six Nations tournament, switched to another hotel.
Firefighters left the scene at 1am this morning, leaving utilities specialists to deal with the aftermath.
East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said: “We were called at 6pm on Wednesday 25 January to a fire in a manhole.
“Work was carried out to isolate utilities as gas was continuing to burn.”
Last night the fire service said: “A 30-metre cordon is in place and nearby buildings have been evacuated as a precaution.
“There are no reports of any injuries.
“As of 9.45pm, two fire engines are in King’s Road while work is carried out to try to isolate utilities as gas is being burnt off by the flames.
“Steady progress is being made but it may still be several hours before the incident draws to a close.
“Members of the public are being asked to avoid the area.
“If you usually use the route during the morning rush hour, please plan alternative routes and allow extra time in case the cordons remain in place.
“The cause hasn’t been confirmed however it’s being treated an electrical fire.”
Early this morning the fire service added: “Roads may still be affected this morning and so members of the public are asked to check local travel bulletins for the latest information.
“For the latest information about power supplies, please see UK Power Networks website https://www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/power-cut/map.
“Thank you for your patience while we worked and to all our partners who assisted us.”
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