Pensioners flee as Hastings gas leak near hospital forces evacuations
Elderly occupants of a Hastings pensioner housing complex were among those forced to flee their homes on Tuesday morning when a ruptured gas main sparked a mass evacuation just a few hundred metres of Hawke's Bay Hospital.
The Tui Vale village in the suburb of Camberley is over the fence from Orchard Rd where a Powerco gas mains ruptured about 10am.
Residents reported a strong gas smell in the air shortly before being told by emergency services to to leave the complex at the start of the two-hour evacuation drama.
Up to eight fire engines from Hastings and Napier responded to the leak. Much of Orchard Rd was cordoned off, along with side streets including Canning Rd, the entrance to Hawke's Bay Hospital's emergency department and maternity wing.
A hospital spokeswoman said the incident was far enough away to avoid the need to evacuate patients and staff. Emergency access to the ED department and the maternity wing remained available throughout the drama but there no emergency cases or expectant mothers arrived during the closure.
Students at nearby Camberley School assembled on the school's fields but principal Tamla Smith said despite a police statement to the contrary, the decision was made that they did not need to evacuate.
It was the second chemical-related drama at the school in as many months. In March classrooms were closed and students sent to hospital for check-ups after fumes were detected from a broken thermometer.
Camberley residents forced to leave their homes on Tuesday were told they could assemble at Heretaunga Intermediate.
One Tui Vale pensioner said he was driven to the intermediate school in a fire truck, given a cup of tea and a biscuit and later driven home in an ambulance.
Another resident said some Tui Vale residents with cars drove to the cordon where they waited for the all-clear.
Heretaunga Intermediate principal Michael Sisam said the school had carried on as normal, although the the hall had been made available to emergency services as a gathering point for those who had been evacuated.
The hospital spokeswoman said there were plans in place in case it ever needed to be evacuated – and evacuations were practiced – but in this case the Fire Service deemed it was not necessary.
Lines company Powerco said the pipe was damaged during maintenance work resulting in a "significant-sized" gas leak.
Operations manager Don Elers said the gas main supplied a large number of industrial customers who would be affected while repairs were made.
A short section of Orchard Rd beside the site of the pipe rupture remained closed on Tuesday afternoon as repair work on the mains continued.
Powerco said gas supplies were fully restored to Hastings about 4pm.