Gas leak forces evacuations in South Surrey

Dozens of South Surrey businesses were evacuated Monday afternoon after a natural gas line under 24 Avenue was severed.

City of Surrey crews were working in the area of 24 Avenue and 160 Street when they hit the high-pressure FortisBC line around 12:30 p.m.

The city was working at capping off a water main at the southeast corner of the intersection when the incident happened.

Witnesses reported hearing a loud, prolonged noise prior to being evacuated. They described the sound of the leak from the four-inch pipe as “like a jet engine.”

Surrey fire Capt. Brent DavidsonFire crews closer to the scene said it was “deafening.”

Employees and customers of businesses within a 1½-block radius of the leak – including the Peace Arch News – were ordered to clear out. Surrey and White Rock RCMP officers helped contain the scene, blocking off area roads – 24 Avenue, from King George Boulevard to 168 Street, and 160 Street, from about 22 to 27 Avenue.

Surrey RCMP Sgt. Drew Grainger said the evacuation was in the interest of safety. The gas discharging from the pipe was “highly flammable,” he said.

“This is about as big as it gets,” Grainger told Peace Arch News of the risk.

“The potential for disaster is obviously huge.”

If it detonated, the results would be “catastrophic,” Grainger said.

Veronica Moretti was at work at Turner Geox in Grandview Corners when the leak occurred. The area was quickly overwhelmed by a foul odour, she said.

“The smell of gas was way, way, way too much,” Moretti said. “We were all running around (asking) ‘what’s happening, what’s happening?’”

Repair teams from Fortis arrived about 2:15 p.m. and the gas was shut off in about an hour. Power to the area was shut off shortly after. For some businesses, it remained off until after 6 p.m.

The roads remained closed until about 5 p.m (Click image below to play slide show).

Vincent Lalonde, Surrey’s general manager of engineering, said he was investigating how and why the pipe was damaged.

“We always use (BC)1-CALL. Right now, we’re interviewing the crews to make sure exactly what happened,” Lalonde said.

- with files from Tracy Holmes

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