Nova Scotia

Halifax man points out holes in manor's evacuation plan

A 71-year-old Halifax man living in an apartment for seniors says emergency crews need a better evacuation plan after he had to walk down a dark stairwell during Tuesday's natural gas leak.

Residences in south-end Halifax evacuated during gas leak

Wilf Vigneault shows the dark stairwell at McKenn Manor. (CBC)

A 71-year-old Halifax man living in an apartment for seniors says emergency crews need a better evacuation plan after he had to walk down a dark stairwell during Tuesday's natural gas leak.

The leak shut down most of south-end Halifax for several hours on Tuesday, leaving thousands without power and forcing many residents in the area out of their homes.

Wilf Vigneault was inside his apartment on the fifth floor of McKeen Manor on Queen Street when the power went out.

"Yesterday these lights were out," he said Wednesday. "When they are not on, it's pretty damn dark."

The power was turned off to reduce the risk of explosion from the gas main rupture, which happened after natural gas contractors hired by Heritage Gas punctured a five-centimetre pipe while doing installation work along South Park Street. The manor's backup generator, however, runs off natural gas so it didn't switch on.

That meant the elevators and emergency lights also didn't work.

Vigneault said he had to walk down a few flights of stairs in darkness.

"I could see this rail but once you get around the corner and this door closed, there is no light. So you're kind of grabbing," he said.

Vigneault was able to walk the few short flights of stairs, but people on higher floors and in wheelchairs had to stay in their apartments. He said emergency crews informed them what was happening, but decided not to try and move them.

He said it baffles him no one thought to plan ahead for a natural gas leak.

Roy Hollett, deputy fire chief of operations at Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency, said there is a general plan for emergencies.

"It doesn't specifically deal with gas or fires or floods," he said.

"It's a general evacuation so we depend on the home staff to assist getting the residents out and in some cases, depending on the size of the home, we might bring in emergency health services to help assist with evacuation."

Vigneault said help came quickly.

"They had bottled water and energy bars and an air conditioned bus sitting out front, so they kept a lot of people happy," he said.

Heritage Gas has launched an investigation into the south-end leak and another one in Dartmouth that same afternoon. The company said it has stopped all work as it investigates.

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