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Large Water Main Break Floods Frankford

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By Mark Abrams and Syma Chowdhry

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A major water main break in the city’s Frankford section prompted evacuations and school closures Monday morning.

PHOTOS: Water Main Break in Frankford

The 48-inch water main broke shortly before 9 a.m. at the intersection of Frankford and Torresdale Avenues.

Widespread service disruptions were reported and there was low water pressure in several nearby areas of the city (See Related Story).

“We have three 60″ pipes here and one 48″ that comes off of them. It took us about 20 to 30 minutes to identify where and start closing the valves,” Howard Neukrug, PWD Commissioner said.

By 11:30 a.m., the water department says the shut was complete and water was back in service throughout the city.

WATCH: Mayor Nutter Gives Update On Water Main Break

Nearby businesses, including a daycare, were evacuated.

Firefighters moved 41 children and their teachers from Nana’s Day Care #1 and #2 along Frankford Avenue, near the break site.

The children were relocated to the Nana’s Little Educator’s Day Care Center #3 at 4350 H Street. Parents were asked to pick up their children there as soon as possible or contact the day care.

But crews had to rescue some folks trapped by the surrounding flood.

Witnesses say the water filled the street within minutes, in some areas 5 feet deep.

People on a bus had to evacuate.

Patrice Simmons, a witness, says, “It was just floods and floods of water just everywhere, everybody had to get off the bus and evacuate.”

Another witness, Tony Wall, says, “I thought the world was coming to an end.”

“All this water comes gushing down and knocked me and my partner off our feet onto the ground and we had to get on top of the van,” he said.

So far, there are no injuries reported.

The 48 inch main is about 20 feet below ground.

They don’t believe there was a freezing or thawing issue, but it is an old pipe, built in more than 100 years ago.

Forty-four schools were affected and half a dozen residents. The School District of Philadelphia dismissed school early because of low water pressure for schools in a number of the affected neighborhoods. Dozens of schools closed at 11:30 a.m. today. For the full list, CLICK HERE.

St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children closed their outpatient center and rescheduled elective surgeries, however normal operations will resume at 2 p.m.

The water department made reverse 911 calls to homes in affected neighborhoods, including the following zip codes: 19121, 19122, 19123, 19124, 19130, 19134, 19137, and 19140.

Crews from the water department shut off feeder mains from as far as a mile away to try and stem the flow of millions of gallons of water leaking from the break.

Streets in the neighborhood of the break are flooded and not passable.

The hardest hit were businesses now dealing with water damage.

“Twenty-five properties with a certain percentage of uninsured loss,” an OEM official said.

SEPTA bus routes 5 and 56 are being detoured around the break.

It took crews three hours to shut down the water.  Now clean up and repairs are underway.

“With a main like this and the depth of it and the work that primarily the water department, L&I and a couple of others will have to do, the intersection will be out for some time,” Mayor Michael Nutter said.

“These are the kinds of things that we train for, try to prepare for, you never know when one of these are going happen.”

The cause of the water main break remains under investigation.

The Philadelphia Water Department released the following statement:

“We recommend that customers turn on the tap of the utility sink in their basement for a few minutes to clear their water service of harmless rust that may have been disturbed during the main repair. If customers do not have a sink in the basement, the kitchen faucet is fine too. After flushing, the faucet aerator should be removed and cleaned.”

PWD also said, customers who live or work adjacent to the break site, they can expect the following to occur:

  • PWD Customer Service representatives will visit properties to document damage and distribute claims forms. Documentation is essential to ensure eligibility for the assistance of PWD in the cleanup and reimbursement for lost goods.
  • PWD will be on site for several days in order to clean the area and prepare the site to repair the main. The actual repair and restoration is expected to require a few months.
  • PWD will continue to update impacted residents and the neighborhood as to the duration of the repair and restoration.
  • PWD will be setting up a webpage at http://www.phillywatersheds.org/alerts to provide updates

Customers experiencing problems with their water service or property drainage should call 215-685-6300.

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