Home > News > Archive > 19th December 2005

Natural gas an invisible threat

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier

FIREFIGHTERS employed water curtains to help break up and diffuse the gas cloud as the wind changed. 354051AD

By Dean Taylor

A ruptured gas main on Cambridge Road brought much of the area to a standstill for 90 minutes on Thursday morning.

McFall Enterprises has the contract for roadworks between the Te Rahu Road turn off and Pekerau Crescent. At about 8am Thursday one of their diggers ruptured a 50mm gas line which feeds that area.

Manager Andrew Macky says they are investigating the accident.

Emergency plans were immediately put into action and the Natural Gas Corporation (NGC) contacted as gas escaped from the broken line. Hamilton NGC staff attended and had the leak isolated by 9.30am.

Te Awamutu Volunteer Fire Brigade senior firefighter Spence Brockbank was incident controller. He brought in two Te Awamutu crews and backup from Hamilton’s Hazardous Substance Unit. The unit contains specialist suits, extra breathing apparatus and is a mobile command unit, complete with computers and communications. It also provided extra manpower.

Mr Brockbank says everyone in the two Te Awamutu crews was kept busy during the incident, so backup was essential.

Initially the wind was pushing the gas down Te Rahu Road, but a shift caused a problem as it then came back towards Ohaupo Road and where emergency equipment was set up.

Water curtains were employed to break up and diffuse the cloud, providing protection for emergency workers and NGC staff.

Mr Brockbank says gas is an invisible threat, so it is difficult to control. He says it is heavier than air and tends to move in an unseen cloud and can get into stormwater systems, gather under eaves of buildings or even accumulate inside a building.

Nearby businesses were closed. Staff at Timmos ITM, which was closest to the leak, were evacuated. Other workers and residents in the affected area were confined inside with buildings closed up. Police also went door to door in the nearby commercial estate and warned against using any equipment likely to ignite the gas.

Mr Brockbank says the timing of the incident caused extra difficulties because the area was busy with workers, parents and school children trying to get to their destinations.

Te Rahu and Cambridge Roads were closed from Pekerau Crescent to Ohaupo Road and the roundabout was partially closed to try and keep traffic flowing.

Mr Brockbank says on the whole people responded to the situation well, although some ignored instructions or showed no commonsense. He says anyone ignoring the safety rules is putting themselves and others in danger.

Firefighters and NGC staff