Evacuations lifted, freeway reopens after workers cap huge gas leak

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SAN DIEGO – Workers capped a ruptured gas line Wednesday night after a massive leak forced the evacuation of homes and businesses within a half-mile radius and prompted the closure of a stretch of state Route 163.

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The leak began at about 10:35 a.m. when a third-party contractor drilled into a 20-inch gas line near the intersection of Friars Road and Ulrich Street, according to San Diego Gas and Electric. The intersection is just west of the Friars Road exit of Route 163. White natural gas spewed out of the pipe, forming a visible cloud that drifted across the highway.

Friars Road was also closed through the area between Fashion Valley Mall and Frazee Road.

At a news conference shortly before 4 p.m., officials from San Diego Fire Department and SDG&E said supply to the line had been shut off but that gas would continue to spew from the ruptured pipe until it emptied.

Just before 7 p.m., SDG&E spokesperson Joe Britton told FOX 5 the leak had been capped.

Around 7:30 p.m., Friars Road and SR-163 reopened to traffic.

Watch: Officials provide update on gas leak

Businesses near Fashion Valley Mall were evacuated as of noon, and the entire Fashion Valley Mall was evacuated a short time later. Just before 3 p.m., the SD Fire announced evacuations for businesses and homes within a half-mile radius of the leak.

Shortly after 4 p.m., the evacuation area was downsized to include the following areas: David Street and Ulric Street eastbound to Mission Valley Road and Mission Center Road, southbound to Mission Center and Camino De La Reina and westbound to include the northwest side of Fashion Valley Mall entrance.

By 7:15 p.m., the evacuation order, which affected close to 3,300 people in 1,000 homes, was lifted, according to San Diego police.

American Red Cross had set up temporary evacuation points at the Riverwalk Golf Course parking lot and the Islands Restaurant parking lot at Fenton Marketplace, which they closed after people were allowed to return to their homes.

Some MTS Rapid Express bus stops were temporarily not in service and riders on some routes were advised to expect delays. The green trolley line was not impacted.

SDG&E crews will work through the night to make repairs to the gas line and begin restoring service to nearby customers, including homes and busineses like those in Fashion Valley Mall.

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