Everybody out at smell of gas in Gunnedah

AUTHORITIES have repaired a faulty gas cylinder which threatened to explode and forced the evacuation of a dozen businesses in Gunnedah.

Trading came to a halt yesterday morning after locals raised the alarm in Tempest St, with a strong smell emanating from the Caltex service station. 

Gunnedah Paint Place’s Anthony Rowe was just one who could smell the LPG wafting through the street about 11am. 

“I could definitely ... there was a bit of a smell about it, that’s for sure,” he told The Leader.

“They just came in and told us we had to lock up.” 

The business was one of more than 12 that locked the front doors before police came knocking and ordered them out.

“Then they told us we should leave the area, not to be smoking, just in case, because they were concerned about what could happen,” Mr Rowe said.

About 55 people were evacuated and a number of streets shut down as Fire and Rescue crews moved in.

Specialist hazmat firefighters from Tamworth and a truck from Narrabri were called to back up the local crews on the ground.

As police moved from door to door setting up the 200m exclusion zone, Fire and Rescue Inspector Rod Chetwynd said firefighters tried to douse the gas.

“So the crews set up some protective sprays to reduce any risk of explosion, they established an immediate exclusion zone and with atmospheric monitoring equipment they were able to confirm it was gas with explodable qualities,” he said.

“We needed to get company technicians on site to assess the reason for the leak and the magnitude of the leak.”

A failing joint or seal on a manifold from an underground gas cylinder has been blamed for the leak.

It took several hours to try to rectify the situation with motorists waved away from the area by authorities while businesses could only sit and wait for the all clear – which eventually came about 3.30pm yesterday.

“They were able to isolate where the gas was leaking from and they are now conducting repairs to the manifold where it was leaking,” Inspector Chetwynd said. 

“We conducted the evacuations for two reasons and they are for the immediate safety of the public in the area ... and by removing the human activity we remove a great deal of ignition sources that may occur in the area.”

It’s the second evacuation of its kind after a major gas leak in Narrabri last month but authorities say it’s purely a coincidence. 

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