As night falls in London, news of the impressive explosion followed by fire in the vicinity of Elephant and Castle tube and train station confirms that the disaster is already under control. From 44 calls to 999 (emergency number), at 1:47 p.m. (9:47 a.m. Argentine time), when dense black smoke began to be seen that announced the explosions, a deployment of 100 firefighters and 15 trucks immediately came and managed to control the fire. The police were also present to help with the evacuation of about 100 people inside the station where the smoke had entered, disperse passersby and place a police cordon to prevent people from entering. Fortunately no lives were lost, but the ambulance services that showed up had to treat six people for smoke inhalation at the scene, and one person had to be hospitalized in the hospital for the same reason.
Both the train and metro lines had to suspend the stops at this station, and the traffic in the area was greatly affected because the area is a kind of crossroads of important avenues to reach different areas of the city.
The police spokesman stated that ruled out the possibility of an act of terrorism – undoubtedly the most feared reason as the cause of the explosions – and affirmed that it all began in one of the garages located in the arches of the structure that supports the passage of trains. At this time there are many thanks from the Mayor of London and the neighborhood authorities to the fire brigade, the ambulance service and the police for their efficiency, who speak of this good British custom of celebrating the positive actions of the public services when they make the things good.
Although the exact extent of the damage is not yet known, it is known that three commercial establishments were left in ashes, several cars exploded, and a phone booth caught fire.
However, there is great concern among business people who rent space in the area for their shops and restaurants, who fear some structural failure in this recently modernized and radically remodeled area. Furthermore, this disaster may discourage the public from attending the area, where activity has begun after a long lockdown due to the COVID pandemic. It is only now, thanks to an intense vaccination campaign that allowed the relaxation of social distance, that the public is returning to the normal activities of a city.
It is striking that only one medium consulted mentioned the meaning of Elephant and Castle for the Latino community, naming the station “Little Colombia”, given the strong presence of Colombian shops and small restaurants which until recently surrounded the now defunct Elephant and Castle shopping center, which closed its doors in September 2020 to be replaced by a modern residential and commercial complex very much in the spirit of urban “regeneration”.
Naturally, the effect was the dispersion of a large part of the Latino community that rented premises at very reasonable prices, and they were evicted and dispersed, since very few of them have the resources to rent in the area today. Decades ago, the area had started to become a Latin epicenter in London with the arrival of political refugee groups from Chile and other countries, and later economic migration from Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, including also though on a smaller scale to migrants from Argentina.
There, newcomers who did not speak English flocked to learn how to navigate the bureaucracy to obtain a residency, get a job, or cultivate nostalgia with a plate of sancocho.
An urban myth for a long time linked the curious name of this neighborhood to the Spanish speaking world. According to legend, which Londoners used to narrate with sarcasm until in 2013 it was denied by a historian, the Infanta of Castile stopped in that area before entering the city for her wedding to Eduardo I. Never too gifted for languages, the English of the time transcribed the name of the Infanta of Castile as what sounded most to them in English: Elephant and Castle.