Gas leak prompts evacuation of E.C. neighborhood

2013-11-18T20:50:00Z 2013-11-19T10:35:20Z Gas leak prompts evacuation of E.C. neighborhoodElvia Malagon and Lauri Harvey Keagle, Times Staff Writers

EAST CHICAGO | Residents near 145th Street and Baring Avenue were evacuated for four hours Monday during the city’s latest gas leak.

Herbie Cruz, director of emergency management for East Chicago, said construction crews were working at 11:30 a.m. in the alley near the intersection when a contractor struck the gas main. The leak caused Fire Department officials to evacuate a 10-square block area around the alley.

Fire engines blocked off surrounding streets and a strong odor of gas lingered in the neighborhood. 

City Council President Adrian Santos said two large holes at 145th Street and Baring Avenue were spewing natural gas about 1:30 p.m. The breach happened just before noon.

"It's very, very loud," Santos said. "I live half a block away and I can smell it."

City and school officials placed nearby Benjamin Harrison Elementary School on lock down as a precaution.

Officials parked a city bus near the neighborhood to keep residents warm and opened up a room in Heritage Hall. Cruz said officials had to wait for a NIPSCO crew from Goshen, Ind., to shut down the gas line. 

Patricia Bryant, 61, was one of three residents who stayed warm inside a city bus during the evacuation. Her daughter sat with her on the bus and waiting for her children to come home from school. 

Bryant said she was watching television when she started to smell gas. She was trying to figure out the origin of the smell when a firefighter came to her door to tell her about the leak. 

"I'm a diabetic, and it's getting close to meal time so I can take my insulin," she said. 

Two residents stopped by the Heritage Hall evacuation center. 

By 3:30 p.m., students were walking out of Benjamin Harrison Elementary and residents were able to return to their homes.

Cruz said residents would remain without gas until NIPSCO crews repaired the gas line. There were no reported injuries. 

Monday's leak was the city's latest in a series of ruptured gas lines. Construction crews hit gas lines twice in October causing temporary evacuations. In a separate incident, construction crews temporarily disrupted water service in late October. 

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