By Paul Burton

LAWRENCE (CBS) — More than 100 people had to evacuate three buildings in Lawrence on Sunday morning after a contractor doing excavation work hit a gas pipe on Manchester Street.

“A subcontractor who was doing excavation work in the rear of 85 Manchester Street struck and severed a high-pressure gas line. Took a while for Eversource to isolate the valve and then shut it off,” said Lawrence Deputy Fire Chief Jack Meaney.

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The incident forced people inside flea and fruit markets onto the street.

“This is a supermarket. Very well visited by the Latino community,” said a Lawrence resident who had to evacuate one of the buildings on Sunday. “It was a gas leak, and people smell it all the way to a couple of hundred feet from here.”

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It is still unclear what caused the subcontractor to hit the gas line. But while nobody was injured, it caused a scare. Natural gas mishaps strike a scary chord there because it was three years ago that a series of gas explosions ripped through many homes in the Merrimack Valley and killed a teenager.

“I mean, being in Lawrence, a gas leak, what happened three years ago, it’s all scary,” said the resident. “We don’t want that to happen again.”

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The Lawrence Fire Department & Police Department, along with National Grid, were on scene most of the day. The broken pipe will be repaired on Monday.

Paul Burton