News & Current Affairs

August 24, 2008

Blast demolishes landmark towers

Two iconic concrete cooling towers in South Yorkshire have been demolished in a controlled explosion.

Millions of drivers passed the 250ft (76m) towers by the Tinsley viaduct on the M1 at Sheffield over the decades.

At 0300 BST the blast to reduce the “salt and pepper pots” to rubble left part of the north tower still standing but it has since collapsed.

The Highways Agency said the motorway remains closed as planned while safety checks are carried out.

How is a cooling tower demolished?

The blast was watched by several thousand people and the M1 motorway had to be closed from midnight on Saturday, between junctions 32 and 35. It is thought the motorway may reopen on Sunday afternoon.

The towers stood only feet away from the twin-deck Tinsley viaduct, which carries the motorway on the top deck and the A631 on its lower deck.

A joint statement from tower owner E.ON and the Highways Agency said: “The demolition has now been successfully completed.

“The viaduct remains closed and the exclusion zone remains in place as planned to allow safety checks to continue.”

Tinsley towers

Only part of the north tower fell initially

After the dust settled, about a third of the north tower was still standing but a BBC reporter at the scene said the pile of rubble left after the explosion gradually fell in on itself and reduced significantly in height.

Paul Scriven, leader of Sheffield City Council, said the focus was now on getting traffic moving.

“We need to get the M1 opened as soon as possible,” he said. “We have a Bank Holiday where people will be moving around the country, coming back home, going to see relatives or going to see places.”

Despite campaigns to save the towers, which were the only remnants of the Blackburn Meadows power station, E.ON said it was destroying them as the 70-year-old structures had deteriorated.

Emily Highmore, from E.ON, said preserving the towers would have been very expensive.

“They would require a very, very significant investment and fundamentally speaking we are an energy company and our job is to keep people’s lights on.”

Nowhere else in the world has anyone sought to bring down similar structures that sit so close to a major highway viaduct
Arthur Ashburner, Highways Agency

The firm has been given permission to build a £60m biomass power station at the site.

Arthur Ashburner, from the Highways Agency, said: “This demolition is a unique situation and as far as we are aware, nowhere else in the world has anyone sought to bring down similar structures that sit so close to a major highway viaduct.

“We will carry out a series of checks to ensure that there has been no damage to the viaduct, which in itself may take several hours.

“We will reopen the road only when we are entirely satisfied that it is safe to do so.”

Some locals had tried to save the cooling towers and have them turned into art.

Campaigner Tom Keeley said: “You see very few cooling towers that are in quite such a visible position, they’re 12 metres from the M1, and they kind of symbolise not only a gateway to Sheffield and Yorkshire but they also symbolise a gateway to the North.”


Were you at the blast? Has the failed demolition affected your journey on the M1? Send us your comments

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August 14, 2008

Murdered couple in ‘scam’ probe

Murdered couple in ‘scam’ probe

Xi Zhou and her boyfriend Zhen Xing Yang

Xi Zhou and her boyfriend Zhen Xing Yang studied at Newcastle University

A Chinese couple murdered in Newcastle may have been involved in a range of internet scams, including betting and providing false visas, police said.

Zhen Xing Yang and girlfriend Xi Zhou died after a “frenzied” knife attack at a flat in Newcastle’s West End.

Detectives revealed information on a seized computer and three mobile phones showed the pair may also have arranged forged professional qualifications.

The 25-year-old Newcastle University graduates, were found dead on 9 August.

Det Supt Steve Wade, leading the murder investigation, said: “A possible motive for the killings is beginning to emerge concerning the lifestyle of Xi Zhou and Zhen Xing Yang.

“Community intelligence supported by the examination of computer equipment and mobile call data has shown that both of the victims have been involved in fraudulent activity which has angered and upset a number of people.

Televised matches

“We are currently investigating this as a possible motive for the killings.”

One line of inquiry involves claims Mr Zhen recruited spectators online to send live updates from UK football matches.

It is claimed syndicates in China, where matches are televised a minute behind, could take advantage of this.

Information passed to Northumbria Police includes details of adverts placed on UK-based Mandarin-language websites, recruiting people to watch football matches around the world.

One reads: “It is a very simple job, any student who is interested, please contact Zhen Xing Yang.”

An ad posted under the name CICI-UK, his girlfriend’s nickname, on the powerapple website last October, reads: “Work: Watch football games and send live information to people.

“Requirement: Basic understanding of football rules, no professional background needed, advantage if you have a car.

“Location: Sheffield, London, Blackpool, Portsmouth, York, Hull and many other places.”

Similar adverts requested live information from the Mexican League.

CCTV of Xi Zhou in street

Xi Zhou was caught on CCTV travelling home from work

The couple were found dead in separate bedrooms at the downstairs flat by friends on the afternoon on 9 August.

Police said Mr Zhen was “assaulted for more than an hour” before being stabbed. They believe passers-by may have heard his screams.

A post-mortem examination revealed he suffered extensive bruising to his arms before he died.

Examinations also showed Miss Xi may have been asphyxiated as well as stabbed during the attack.

The body of a cat, which had been drowned and hidden in a washing bowl underneath the bathroom sink, was probably killed by the couple’s murderer, said police.

An offender profiler has been brought in to help establish a motive for the killings.

Police have also released CCTV images taken as Miss Xi traveled home from work at the Wagamama restaurant in Newcastle last Thursday afternoon.

Police have not been able to find any occupation for Mr Zhen since he completed his degree in September 2006.

A Northumbria Police spokesman said: “We continue to look into the lifestyle of both victims and internet websites form part of this investigation.

“We cannot comment further at this stage.”

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