Cameron Rd gas leak emergency

By Kiri Gillespie

Business owners refused to leave their shops during a potentially explosive gas leak that shut down one of the city's busiest roads.

Firefighters were forced to bring in police to shift those who refused to evacuate after contractors working outside shops near 16th Ave ruptured a 50mm underground gas pipe yesterday afternoon.

Fire trucks blocked off Cameron Rd between 15th Ave and 17th Ave from about 1.50pm.

Traffic was diverted down the avenues instead, creating a huge traffic jam that backed up several kilometres in most directions.

It is understood a woman needed help in leaving the area after the gas triggered an asthma attack.

People were evacuated from homes but Tauranga Fire Service station officer Len Sabin told the Bay of Plenty Times firefighters needed police to help evacuate some business owners who refused to leave their shops.

"The immediate area, about 200m, was evacuated," Mr Sabin said.

"So that was all of the shops - and that was a case of working with the police - and then down wind we evacuated people from within about 500m from the leak.

"There were some shop owners who were reluctant to leave their premises."

These business owners were evacuated once police became involved, but it should not have come down to that, Mr Sabin said.

"We have got high-pressure explosive gas leak and we base our evacuation on the potential of that."

Firefighters dug down to the leak and managed to clamp the pipe until gas fault workers could arrive and take over.

The smell of gas drenched the area and remained especially strong after the leak was worked on at 2.30pm.

Gate Pa woman Shontel Linn was in St Vincent de Paul when a firefighter entered the shop to help evacuate people.

She said everyone was being asked to move away from the area.

"They were kind of freaked but they weren't too bad because they said this was the second time this has happened," Ms Linn said.

"They had to give a lady assistance because of her asthma, [the gas] was so fast," she said.

"It was very strong. It triggered my asthma too but it wasn't too major."

St John Ambulance paramedics were at the scene but did not need to treat anyone.

Tauranga woman Cat Bycroft was caught in the banked up traffic for about 30 minutes without knowing what had happened.

"We were coming down Cameron Rd from the Greerton end and we were stuck by the hospital for about 15 minutes," she said.

"It took us about half an hour to just get around it."

Ms Bycroft said the traffic was crawling simply because the 17th Ave traffic lights remained operating.

"No one was telling us anything about what was going on," Ms Bycroft said. Traffic finally started to get back to normal by the time it reached 13th Ave.

Tauranga police Senior Sergeant Rob Glencross advised people to avoid the area as emergency services worked to contain the leak.

Mr Glencross said the people evacuated were allowed back and the road was reopened just about 2.45pm.

A spokeswoman for contracting company Vector said it was aware of the rupture and was expecting a full incident report detailing what happened to be filed with the company this morning.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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