An eyewitness who was just feet away from an exploding manhole in Northampton described seeing an injured woman limping away from the flames.
Louise Drew, 24 from Northampton town centre, said : "I was walking from Pure Gym and had just rounded the corner when there was a loud pop, followed by another.
"Then fire just started coming up through the ground. The smell was horrendous. It was scary.
"I'm okay but there were two more women and one was holding her leg. There were bits of pavement rocketing upwards. It looked like she'd been hit by a piece in the calf."
Witnesses told the Chron that two women in a nearby butcher's shop were trapped behind the smoke and flames.
Staff from other shops ran to the rescue and led their neighbours to safety. Someone else tried to tackle the flames with a fire extinguisher but were unable to help.
Firefighters arrived minutes later and the fire was out soon afterwards.
The electricity is currently off at 100 premises in Gold Street and surrounding streets. Western Power say it will take until at least 4pm to solve the problem.
Dwayne Wright of Number Sixty Two Barbers, Gold Street, said: "The first I knew was that all our electrics started flickering then I saw the shops across the street evacuating.
"When I got out, I saw the flames. It was crazy. I thought I'd better get out quick at that point."
Robin from the MooreVape shop said: "We could hear it as we were in the shop at the top end of the street. We saw a bit of fuss, the lights started flickering, we heard a noise, and basically the ground was on fire.
"We were still serving until the smoke started billowing down and the police suggested we might want to move, so I locked the shop up.
"Every now and again it would billow up a little bit more and then settle back down. I was never in particular fear for my life but it was certainly decorative."