Jõe tänav gas leak in Tallinn Friday morning result of roadwork activity
A major gas pipeline leak on a street in Tallinn's central business district Friday morning was due to a rupture caused in the course of ongoing roadworks in the area. A substantial, hazardous volume of natural gas escaped as a result of the incident.
Triinu Tamm, chairman of the board of AS Gaasivõrk, the owner of the damaged pipes, said that construction workers' equipment had ruptured the pipelines in the course of roadworks on Jõe tänav, causing a large volume of gas to escape.
This totaled around 4,500 cubic meters of natural gas, a volume which Tamm called "quite large."
Rescue Board (Päästeamet) spokesperson Leonid Pahhutši said that the main risk was of an explosion, adding he had never had to deal with a leak of that size in his career.
Since wind direction was variable in the area – close to the ferry harbor district and consisting mostly of office blocks and apartment blocks of several floors in height – this led to pockets of higher concentrations of natural gas which, if ignited, would have caused an explosion.
This made evacuation essential in the 100-meter stretch of road declared a danger zone, but, Pahhutši, who is field manager of the Rescue Board's northern district, said this evacuation took some time to achieve, and more than a few minutes.
Gaasivõrk says there are around 20 natural gas customers in the vicinity of the rupture, generally business customers, due to the large number of offices nearby.
Triinu Tamm said that compensation must be paid by those proved cyulpable, adding it is too early to say what the figure – which will comprise costs of the initial shut-off work, repairs and also the lost gas itself – will be.
When the news was announced last fall that Jõe, a north-south route running a few hundred meters from Narva mnt to the intersection with Reidi and Ahtri (see map), was to be renovated – along with Pronkis, its continuation to the south, Tallinn Deputy Mayor Vladimir Svet (Center) noted the large amount of landscaping and improvements to make Jõe more pedestrian-friendly, that the work would involve.
The work is scheduled to continue through to next fall.
The Rescue Board was notified of Friday's leak shortly after 9 a.m., and was quickly on the scene. The street, which is partly open to traffic as roadworks continue, was closed off, including to pedestrians, and 100m declared a danger zone.
By 11.00 a.m., the gas leaks were closed off, and those evacuated were allowed back into their buildings shortly before midday.
The street was reopened to pedestrians at the same time.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming, Madis Hindre