A water main break flooded several streets in Chinatown early Wednesday morning, sparking an underground electrical fire, city officials said.

Crews worked to control then repair the damage following the 5:30 a.m. rupture at the intersection of Washington and Kneeland streets. Boston firefighters responded to the scene, where they found a 20-inch water main break, and water gushing into the streets.

Firefighters shut off water to the area, leaving streets caked in mud from the rupture.


Around 9 a.m., firefighters noticed another problem: smoke pouring out of several manhole covers. The smoke was the result of a fire that ignited from underground electrical wires, which were soaked from the water main break, fire department spokesman Steven MacDonald said.

"Water flowed down Washington Street and down into the manholes, which caused burning of the underground cables. We think they’re directly related," he said.

It took more than two hours to get the situation under control. "Manhole fires appear out," the department tweeted just after noon.

Some of the smoke made its way into nearby buildings from underground conduits, and officials said homes and businesses in the area may experience power outages as crews work on damanged lines.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh urged people to avoid the area while crews continue to work. Washington Street is closed from Kneeland Street to Boyleston Street and Kneeland Street is closed between Tremont and Knapp streets.

"Please avoid driving in this area as our first responders continue their work following a water main break," Walsh tweeted.

Streets will likely remain closed into the night, MacDonald said.

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