SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – Hundreds of people evacuated from a neighborhood near downtown San Jose following a gas line rupture Wednesday will not be able to return until late Thursday evening, according to authorities.
At an afternoon press briefing, PG&E spokesperson Mayra Tostado said multiple crews had been mobilized to fix the damaged line, as well as six additional distribution lines.
“Due to the complexity of the infrastructure in this location we have six main distribution lines that are connected to each other, so they’re all feeding into the same area into that damaged line. That’s why we have to isolate each one of those lines that are connected to be able to fully stop the flow of gas,” said Tostado.
San Jose Fire tweeted just before 6 p.m. Thursday that evacuation orders would stay in place until “late into the late evening,” indicating there was no specific time that the repopulation of the neighborhood would begin.
Per @PGE4Me, evacuation orders near Race St/Park Ave will remain in place into the late evening. Residents in need of housing assistance are encouraged to go to the Bascom Community Center (1000 S Bascom Ave). Updates will be posted here as they become available. @SanJosePD pic.twitter.com/zQxKe6b82S
— San José Fire Dept. (@SJFD) August 27, 2021
PG&E said a third-party contractor had contacted them to mark the location of the gas line, but violated safety protocols by operating a boring machine within two feet of the 8-inch steel line, and ruptured it Wednesday morning.
“Which is very dangerous because you don’t have full control of the equipment that you’re using. That’s why it’s required to use hand tools so that you can avoid striking a line,” said Tostado.
VIDEO UPDATE: PG&E is continuing to work to shut off gas after a non-PG&E affiliated contractor struck a gas line near the intersection of Race St & Park Ave in #SanJose. We appreciate your patience & hope to share some progress w/ you later today. @SJFD @SanJosePD @CityofSanJose pic.twitter.com/UhOGoBsz46
— Mayra Tostado (@PGE_Mayra) August 26, 2021
The rupture happened in the area of Race Street and Eugene Avenue. Gas from the underground leak was not able to vent and accumulated underground and posed a greater risk to the surrounding area, the fire department said.
The leak immediately prompted evacuations of homes and businesses within a 900-foot radius, with San Jose police officers going door-to-door to alert residents and businesses. About 325 addresses were impacted, SJFD officials said. Dozens of customers had their gas turned off.
The fire department said the area includes even and odd addresses from 153 to 245 Race Street and 212 Grand Avenue to 102 Park Avenue.
The NorCal Red Cross office and San Jose Parks, Recreation & Neighborhood Services have been assisting with evacuated residents. A shelter was set up at the Bascom Community Center on Wednesday afternoon and available for any residents in need of shelter. As of Thursday morning, 100 people came to the shelter for updates, and Red Cross provided 34 hotel vouchers.
Joseph Suffoletti evacuated from his home with just his pets, but no fresh clothes or medication. Suffoletti received an update on the lifting of the evacuation order via phone overnight.
“On the phone, it was 7:30 last night, I’ll be back home at midnight. And I don’t even know what time it is now, but it’s a lot after midnight,” said Suffoletti.
“I’d rather err on the side of caution, than you know, just rush back in and something happens,” said evacuee Robert Kelly.
The third-party contractor could be held liable for damages and expenses in connection with the rupture, said Tostado.
Kiet Do contributed to this report.