12:00pm Thursday 1st August 2002
FIREFIGHTERS have condemned a group of children who sparked a big rescue scare operation by playing in storm drains last night.
Crews were called to Warndon Villages at 8.45pm after police saw children going down a manhole into sewers in Caister Avenue.
Nearly 50 firefighters were eventually involved after a child's cries were heard.
A series of drains were searched, but only candles, cigarette ends and graffiti were found.
Firefighters now believe a child maliciously shouted down the drain, and they are urging parents to keep an eye on their youngsters during the summer holidays.
The search kept city crews from a house fire in The Arboretum, which had to be dealt with by a Kidderminster crew.
Leading Firefighter Bob Hardwick said events could have been worsened as the visiting crew were unfamiliar with the area.
He added drains were dangerous places to play, as youngsters could be washed away by flash floods or pick up diseases.
"There was a house fire at The Arboretum during the incident, and we were fortunate a crew from
Kidderminster were on stand-by in Worcester," he said. "Because of the parking problems in the Arboretum, and we would have known the best way to get there.
"Any children should be made aware of the dangers of sewers. They were down storm drains during adverse weather conditions and there was a very strong possibility of being washed away.
"We weren't aware the children were already out, so we treated it as a serious incident and put our firefighters in danger."
Police, ambulance and Severn Trent Water were also called to the two--hour operation.
Hereford and Worcester Fire Service was now contacting the body responsible for the drains to make sure manhole covers are secured to avert another incident.
A West Mercia police spokesman said a resident raised the alarm after seeing children lift a manhole cover and going into the drains.
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