Fredericton gas leak on north side prompts evacuation, street closure

A natural gas leak on Fredericton's north side late Friday morning forced up to 50 people from their homes and businesses and prompted the closure of at least one street, snarling traffic.

A two-inch pipeline on Hillcourt Drive was damaged during water and sewer construction work in the area, Enbridge Gas New Brunswick spokeswoman Sara Gourley told CBC News.

Crews responded shortly before noon and managed to squeeze off the flow of natural gas by 12:25 p.m., she said.

"There will be an investigation and to respect that process, it wouldn't be appropriate to comment any further at this time."

The leak comes on the heels of a series of gas explosions north of Boston Thursday that killed a teenager, injured at least 10 people and ignited fires in at least 39 homes.

Massachusetts State Police urged all residents with homes serviced by Columbia Gas in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover to evacuate, snarling traffic and causing widespread confusion as residents and local officials struggled to understand what was happening.

"It looked like Armageddon, it really did," Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield told reporters.

In Fredericton, homes and businesses within 100 to 150 metres of the damaged pipe were evacuated as a precaution, affecting 40 to 50 people, said city spokesman Wayne Knorr, based on a conversation with fire platoon Cpt. Larry Seymour.

Fire and police crews responded to "secure the site and provide support as needed, i.e., evacuations, etc.," Knorr said in an email.

They remained on scene for about an hour, he said. Paramedics also responded.

It was a contractor digging in the area, said Knorr. "A utility locate had been done," he added.

Only one Enbridge customer had their natural gas service disconnected, said Gourley.

Traffic on Hillcourt Drive and Main Street was delayed for less than 45 minutes, she said.

Work is underway to repair the damaged line.