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Police and fire

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Downtown buildings evacuated for gas leak

Crews labored into the night Tuesday to stop a stubborn natural gas leak that sent a pungent odor into the air and forced the evacuation of several downtown buildings.

The leak was first reported at 1:36 p.m. after a construction crew, working on a sewer project, broke a gas line near Berry and Webster streets, said Stacey Fleming, a fire department spokeswoman.

Because of the level of gas detected in the air, eight to 10 commercial buildings were evacuated within a block of the intersection. Just outside that one-block radius was First Presbyterian Church, 300 W. Wayne St., which has a childcare program for 65 kids. Officials did not evacuate the church, but monitored the building for any natural gas, Fleming said.

By 9:30 p.m., the leak had not been fixed. Crews had found the source of it and shut off one valve, but they were still digging to turn off a second valve, said NIPSCO spokeswoman Jill Perillo, who could not estimate when the leak would be stopped.

Perillo said the gas line, a 2-inch steel pipe, had not been marked before the construction crew started digging. It was not yet clear who was at fault for the leak, she said.

Power was cut in some nearby buildings so NIPSCO crews could work safely, Perillo said. No injuries were reported.

The leak shut down Wayne Street except for local traffic, while Berry and Webster streets were already closed for construction.