Everybody out as gas fills skies

IT WAS business as usual in Narrabri today after 500 people were evacuated yesterday because of fears a gas tank could explode.

The chaos started to unravel just after 12.30pm when several locals rang triple-zero to report strong smells of gas.

Fire crews were deployed to the scene in Barwon St and found a one-tonne LPG cylinder with a significant leak near the Coles Supermarket.

Supermarket staff and customers were ordered out of the area first because Fire and Rescue NSW Inspector Rod Chetwynd said there was an immediate threat the gas tank could explode.

“There was obviously a risk of explosion, in conjunction with the police we commenced evacuations,” he said.

“Approximately 500 people were evacuated from businesses, the primary school and a college nearby.”

A 300-metre exclusion zone was set up and numerous roads were blocked as police moved from door to door telling people to leave.

Students from the Narrabri Public School were evacuated to Collins Park as fire crews secured the scene.

“There are no second chances with gas explosions,” Inspector Chetwynd said.

“The evacuations were necessary for not only the safety of the people, but also the activity they are carrying out, because it removes ignition sources ... and obviously lowers the explosion risk.

“Because gas is quite flammable, and LPG is heavier than air ... it was very important that we evacuated the people.”

Inspector Chetwynd said fire crews and specialist Hazmat firefighters wore protective gear and breathing apparatus to try to stem the leak.

“Crews deployed hose lines to neutralise the flammability of the gas and then, with specialised air monitoring equipment, they maintained surveillance of the area to determine the levels of gas while the technicians repaired the cylinder,” Inspector Chetwynd said.

“It’s believed the cylinder may have just been filled by a bulk gas tanker. There was obviously a weak valve in the system. Under the pressure of a full cylinder it failed and caused the leak.”

The area was eventually rendered safe just after 2pm and workers and students were allowed to return to the area.

The company responsible is examining the gas tank.

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