Manhole explosion downtown Honolulu closes roads for hours, shuts off power to nearly 1,000 people

Manhole explosion downtown Honolulu closes roads for hours, shuts off power to nearly 1,000 people
Published: Aug. 30, 2015 at 10:16 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A manhole exploded downtown Honolulu on Sunday closing roads for hours and shutting off power to nearly one thousand people.

A spokeswoman for Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), Janet Crawford, said it was an electrical short that caused the blast on Hotel Street around 10:00 a.m.

No one was injured. But witnesses said the noise was deafening.

"I just turned around and I just seen everybody just sprinting over here, it was crazy," said Alika Mendoza.

"We look over at this building, everything's just shaking wild," Robert Curry said.

Patrick Brogan lives on the 20th floor in the high-rise that shook. He said he could feel his walls rattle.

"I was sitting on my computer and all of a sudden I just hear a bang…and I was like what is going on. I thought it was either a gunshot or the building was blown up and I looked over and I see smoke all in the street," Brogan said.

It's still unclear what exactly caused the short. But HECO sent crews down into the manhole to find out. But it took several hours before they could even get down there because first responders said it wasn't safe.

"Right now we have readings of seven-percent oxygen. You need about 19-percent to exist, to live, to stay healthy, 19 to 20. So we got to ventilate it first and then we got to send teams that have breathing apparatus and also know how to work in small maneuverability areas," Battalion Chief Jim Skellington.

Crawford said a total of four circuits were down and about 915 customers were without power since 11:45 a.m. She said as of 4:00 p.m., power was restored to majority of those customers but the rest will be without power until they can make repairs. Crawford said crews will continue to work until those repairs are made. She said it will hopefully be done by Sunday evening.

Honolulu police officers shut down Hotel Street from Alakea Street to Bethel Street for vehicles and Fort Street Mall was closed for pedestrians.

"Right now we're just mostly worried about explosions and any kind of smoke inhalation so that's why we have everything blocked off. So until we know exactly what's down there and what caused it, we won't know what exactly the hazards are," Sgt. Miya Brouwer said.

The Fire Department assures no gas lines were involved.

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