East El Paso Gas Leak Stops Traffic on I-10 and Causes Evacuations

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POSTED: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 12:08am

UPDATED: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 12:11am

EL PASO- Four people were treated for minor injuries and hundreds of people evacuated buildings, during a gas line emergency in east El Paso this afternoon.

Rush hour traffic on I-10 was brought to a standstill while the El Paso Fire Department and the Texas Gas Service worked to contain the gas leak. There was no explosion or fire but pressure from the leaking gas sent a cloud of dirt across the freeway.

A construction crew accidentally backed a tractor and ruptured the line just outside the Del Sol Surgery and Rehabilitation Center. People in that building and a a nearby dental office evacuated within minutes.

" Well we were all inside seeing patients and then all of a sudden they just ran in and told us there was a gas leak and they evacuated us all out," said an employee of the Celebrity Smiles dental office.

350 people rushed out of those two buildings and they were advised to wait outside while the Texas Gas Service and El Paso Fire Department tried to stop the leak.

"We were trying to get into our cars but they told us any spark can cause an explosion," said the Celebrity Smiles employee. He says the dust rose almost thirty feet into the sky.

"The smell was strong. We had two pregnant girls with us and they were getting kind of nauseous and they had to walk home from here," said the Dental employee.

Three Texas Gas Service Employees were treated for nausea at the scene. An ambulance took a fourth person, an employee of the one of the evacuated buildings, with nausea to the hospital. The fire department watered down the area where the gas line broke to prevent anything from igniting. Eventually the Texas Gas Service fixed the gas leak. Police reopened I-10 a few hours later.

The gas line is repaired now but crews will stay there overnight to check for pockets of gas that could cause a problem. The businesses that evacuated should be able to return safely to work in the morning.

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