Residents tell of gas leak terror

By Liz HearnshawTERRIFIED residents have told how they feared their homes could have blown up after vast quantities of gas began seeping through the floorboards.

By Liz Hearnshaw

TERRIFIED residents have told how they feared their homes could have blown up after vast quantities of gas began seeping through the floorboards.

They also criticises the contractors, who caused the leak while connecting a town's new cinema to the mains, saying they had been not been offered compensation or an apology.

The drama unfolded shortly before midnight on Monday when the residents of four terraced houses in King's Road, Bury St Edmunds, were woken by a strong smell of gas and frantic banging on their doors.

Karen Norris, who rents a house in the road, said: “There was so much gas coming through the floorboards and the smell was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

“I was so scared that any kind of spark could set it off. My heart was just racing - I thought it was going to blow up.

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“I had gone to bed at about 11pm and was wearing earplugs because there has been horrendous noise and disturbance outside our doors, so I could not hear the man from Transco banging on the door to wake me up at first.

“He said he had never smelt so much gas and couldn't even ring the doorbell in case it set it off.

“I was really scared. I could not put lights on or use any electricity and had to rush out of the house in two minutes flat.”

Ms Norris, who was forced to ring a sleeping friend in the middle of the night to ask if she could stay, added: “I often sit in the lounge with candles and just thought it was really good luck I didn't light them that night.

“I don't tend to panic, but I could just imagine everything going up. I didn't sleep a wink.

“Everything I own is in the house and I could have had to replace it all. I am just grateful I have still got all my possessions and nobody has been hurt.”

Ms Norris returned home yesterday morning to be told the site still was not safe. She was eventually allowed in at lunchtime, but warned to keep all windows open and not light any matches.

“We were quite fortunate, but I will certainly be writing to the Gas Transportation Company and its sub-contractors as we have had no compensation and not even an apology,” she said.

“The work was supposed to last two days, but has been going on for a week. To have a pneumatic drill outside your bedroom window all night long is ridiculous.

“On the other hand, Transco have been brilliant and have been checking the levels regularly.”

A spokesman for Transco said the damage had been caused by a third party working on behalf of the Gas Transportation Company.

“Contractors were connecting the new cinema onto gas and there was a leak. Four nearby terraced houses were evacuated for safety reasons,” he said.

“I have not yet got an estimate on how long the repair work will take, but there will be a full investigation into what happened.”

A spokesman for the Gas Transportation Company said an investigation would take place into the cause of the leak.

“We apologise for any inconvenience that has been caused to the residents. The reason we have been working after hours is because that is how we have been directed by the highways authority,” he said.

“The work has taken longer than anticipated, but it is always difficult to judge problems that may arise when digging in the street.

“Any resident who wishes to make further comments or needs further information should contact the company in writing.”

liz.hearnshaw@eadt.co.uk

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