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Power cut hits thousands moments after power station demolished

Chiara Giordano

Thousands of people were left without electricity after a power station where four workers were killed three years ago was demolished.

Residents gathered on Sunday morning to watch as the last of the coal-fired Didcot A plant in Oxfordshire was brought down using explosive charges.

But just moments after the three remaining cooling towers disappeared from the skyline at about 7am, an electricity pylon went up in flames.

Around 40,000 homes were left without power until it was restored about an hour later.

After initially denying the fire was linked to the demolition, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) later confirmed the two were linked.

An SSEN spokesperson said the company received reports of damage to their network at Sutton Courtenay shortly after 7am on Sunday.

“Initial investigations have confirmed that this morning’s power cut was caused by material related to the demolition of Didcot Power Station striking our overhead electricity network,” the spokesperson said.

“During the demolition, a large section of debris protection material became detached from one of the cooling towers and made contact with our 33kV overhead line, which was outside of the advised perimeter.

“This resulted in significant damage to the overhead line and subsequent network faults.”

The spokesperson said the Sutton Courtenay incident had left people with minor injuries.

“[We] are working with the police and other agencies to identify those impacted,” they added.

“We would ask anyone affected to contact us through the power cut helpline 105 so we can investigate further.”

Didcot A ceased operation in 2013 after running for 43 years, and three of its towers were demolished in 2014.

In February 2016, workers Christopher Huxtable, 33, from Swansea, South Wales, Kenneth Cresswell, 57, and John Shaw, 61, both from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, and Michael Collings, 53, from Saltburn-by-the-Sea, Teesside, died after part of the boiler house collapsed.

But it took more than six months before all of the bodies were recovered by September 2016.

Thames Valley Police and the Health and Safety Executive had launched a joint investigation to consider corporate manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter and health and safety offences.

RWE and contracting firm Brown and Mason, which carried out Sunday’s demolition, have been contacted for comment.

Additional reporting by agencies