Part of Chinatown evacuated after gas leak 

Residents and merchants evacuated after an underground explosion rocked Chinatown on Wednesday afternoon were set to begin returning Wednesday evening, officials said. The explosion occurred at 2:34 p.m. on the 800 block of Washington Street at Waverly as PG&E crews were working in the area. The force of the explosion caused a 2-inch natural gas line to leak, shooting gas, smoke and a manhole cover into the air.

No one was injured in the explosion, but Washington Street, along with Waverly and Ross, were evacuated as a precaution. Clay, Stockton and Grant streets were closed to pedestrians and through traffic, and power was shut off, leaving 150 people without power for nearly three hours.

"The gas leak was sizeable, but the good news is that it was contained to the vault," PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno said, adding that the leak was not poisonous because it was natural gas.

PG&E could not confirm whether the workers caused the explosion.

(Photo by Jenna Andrews/Examiner reader)

As rain began to pour, crowds gathered behind yellow police tape as police and translators explained to confused residents that the streets were not open to pedestrians. Some walked by holding their jackets up to their noses, trying to avoid breathing in the gas.

Crews dug using jackhammers into Washington Street to shut off the leaking gas line. The leak was finally contained by 5:15 p.m., and crews were able to safely enter the five-foot-by-five-foot electrical vault to start their investigation into the cause of the explosion, Moreno said.

Muni service on the 1-California line was rerouted for three hours as crews blocked off Clay Street , according to MTA spokeswoman Kristin Holland.

Maria Lau, who works at the Buddha Bar at 901 Grant Street , said she was behind the bar when she heard a loud noise that sounded like a bomb. She rushed outside and was told by crews that power in the bar would be shut off.

Residents and business owners were allowed to return to the evacuated streets by 7 p.m., Moreno said.

I H S Gallery owner Isaac Shabtai was in his business at the time of the explosion and said it sounded like "someone dropped something on us."

Freshly dug-up Washington Street would be closed to traffic well into the night, Moreno said.

 


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