Homes evacuated following gas leak

CELIA WIGG A dozen people were evacuated from their homes today following a second major gas leak in 36 hours.

CELIA WIGG

A dozen people were evacuated from their homes today following a second major gas leak in 36 hours.

People living in six homes along a stretch of the B1172 at Hethersett were forced to flee because of the threat posed by the leaking gas pipe near the David James Cars dealership.

Residents, together with their pets, were taken to the nearby Park Farm Country Hotel where they were looked after by emergency planning officials from South Norfolk Council while engineers battled to repair the hole in the pipe.

The latest incident came after thousands of people had their journeys disrupted on Thursday by a leak in the same gas main which forced the closure of the Hethersett to Wymondham road for seven hours.

This morning, the alarm was raised again shortly after 9am when residents heard a loud roaring sound of gas.

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The emergency services were called and the road was closed from the Tuttles Lane roundabout at Wymondham to just before the Park Farm hotel.

Tonight, a National Grid spokesman said that despite engineers sealing the first hole, another one had opened up and a change in wind direction meant residents had to be evacuated for their own safety. She said the road was reopened and residents allowed back to their homes at around 3pm.

Shabina Bhatti, 29, was evacuated to the hotel along with her mother Aisha, father Mahmood and the family's pet cat Kizzy.

She said: “The people from the gas board came at about 9.30am and told us to turn everything off in case there was an explosion. Shortly afterwards, they came back and they were really apologetic and told us we had to leave.

“They brought the 12 of us up to the hotel in a van and we have been given lunch and looked after really well. The hotel doesn't usually allow pets, but they have made an exception for us and another neighbour who has brought their dog.”

But not everyone was happy with the situation.

David Bain, who runs David James Cars, had to leave his business and was unable to return until later in the day.

He said: “I am really annoyed. We do not sell cars every day, but I might have sold two cars today. They could have sorted this all out the previous night.”

The National Grid spokesman said gas began escaping from the main on Wednesday night and engineers put a temporary repair on it to seal the hole, but then another hole developed.

“When the first escape happened, the wind was blowing away from the houses so we didn't need to evacuate,” she said. “But the wind changed direction with the second escape so the fire brigade evacuated people.

“This main doesn't have a particularly bad history and it is also in a rural area, but now there have been two escapes we will look at our replacement programme of work. We apologise for any inconvenience, but, at the end of the day, public safety is our priority.”

Bus services in the area were disrupted for a second day because of the road closure.