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Gas Leak Closes Norwalk Road, Displaces Workers

NORWALK, Conn. – A loudly leaking natural gas pipe shut down a Norwalk road and caused workers to evacuate two buildings Monday afternoon for fear of what might have been "a fireball," said Norwalk Fire Department Deputy Chief Gino Gatto.

Gatto said a local contractor putting in concrete curbs ruptured a 2-inch, 30-pound pressure gas line in front of 40 Richards Ave. Gatto said the entire parking garage at 40 Richards had been filled with gas, according to meters. "It was tense for a little while," he said.

"As soon as the operator of the excavator realized what he did, he shut the excavator down and called 911," Gatto said. The incident was reported at 2:37 p.m. A total of 120 to 150 employees of the buildings at 40 Richards and 38 Richards were evacuated. They stood in the rear parking lot, where firefighters measured no presence of gas while Norwalk Police closed Richards Avenue at Connecticut Avenue and at Flax Hill Road.

Employees were trying to drive away when police arrived, which could have ignited the fumes. They were stopped. After Yankee Gas workers capped the pipe at 3:28 p.m., many headed for Connecticut Avenue. Roger Gavreau, an employee of AeroTek, said he was going for iced coffee. He also said the leaking pipe had been loud.

If the gas had ignited, it would have been difficult to extinguish, Gatto said. "If you had an initial source gas fireball out here, the only way to put it out is to cut the gas off," he said. "And they couldn't shut if off there because it was on fire so they'd have to find a remote location. That could take a long time, and then you have exposure to the building. Luckily, this type of construction is fire resistant."

Gatto said there had been reports of gas "on the highway," but that was not a problem. "Because they smell it doesn't mean they're in any danger," he said. The nearby Costco was checked for the presence of gas. "There were no readings in that building," he said.

No medical emergencies were reported, and two pregnant women said they were fine. Yankee gas workers were replacing the broken section with new coupling at 3:30 p.m.

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