Gas shut off at site of downtown Ottawa leak that prompted evacuation

Enbridge shut off a major gas leak at a downtown Ottawa intersection that forced the evacuation of buildings and the closure of major roads along four blocks Tuesday afternoon.

Rupture caused by roadwork at O'Connor and Queen around 1:30 p.m.

A worker covers their ears as crews try to repair a large and loud gas leak at Queen and O'Connor streets. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Enbridge has shut off gas at the site of a major leak in downtown Ottawa that forced the evacuation of buildings and the closure of major roads along several blocks Tuesday afternoon.

The leak occurred at about 1:21 p.m. at the intersection of Queen and O'Connor streets.

The smell of gas was strong on the street and a loud hissing sound could be heard in the vicinity.

The leak happened after an Ottawa light rail transit subcontractor working on streetscaping on Queen Street and operating an excavator hit the gas line, according to a spokesperson with the Rideau Transit Group, the consortium building Ottawa's LRT system.

Rideau Transit Group said it's too early to say exactly what happened and the priority is securing the site and shutting off the gas main so people can safely return home.

Ottawa deputy fire chief Kim Ayotte told reporters around 4:30 p.m. that the gas had been turned off and that people were allowed to return to the buildings. Several buildings, including the World Exchange Plaza, where many people park their cars downtown, were evacuated after the leak.

Enbridge said it's possible the leak could be fixed by the morning, but workers would still have to go into each property to turn the gas service back on.​ While the gas company's workers assess and repair the damage, 34 customers will be without gas, a spokesperson said.

Ottawa fire crews are on scene and police are directing traffic.

City officials said buildings within four blocks of the intersection were evacuated.

A perimeter from Bank Street in the west to Elgin Street in the East, and Wellington Street in the north to Albert Street to the south were closed to traffic, but as of 5:45 p.m. the roads had reopened.

Emergency crews work at site of a gas leak in downtown Ottawa while, in the background, workers who left evacuated buildings gather in front of Parliament Hill. (Paula Waddell/CBC)