Firefighters have been forced to evacuate part of the main shopping area and library in the Taranaki town of Stratford due to a gas leak.

Deputy chief fire officer Kevan Old said the firefighters were unable to isolate the leak as the rupture was located below a shut-off valve.

Officers have therefore evacuated the area as gas was pumping out into the air with a westerly wind currently blowing.

He said the gas authority, who were needed to shut the gas off, were approximately 50 minutes away.

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A reporter at the scene said there was a strong smell of gas and a loud hissing noise could be heard from nearby Prospero Place.

The interior of the Broadway building where a gas leak was believe to have occurred. Photo / Ilona Hanne
The interior of the Broadway building where a gas leak was believe to have occurred. Photo / Ilona Hanne

The building which appeared to be the source of the leak has a storefront on the Broadway stretch of State Highway 3 and was currently untenanted.

Firefighters were accessing the building via the back entrance which faced a service lane next to Prospero Place.

It was expected most of the nearby premises, such as the i-Site visitors' centre and library, could be reopened by 11am.