Gas leak near San Diego Zoo prompts evacuations, park shut down
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – A natural gas leak forced closures of the San Diego Zoo and several other Balboa Park attractions Thursday and prompted road closures in the busy tourist district.
The hazardous fumes began wafting through the landmark city park north of downtown San Diego about 8 a.m., when a construction worker accidentally broke a 4-inch-diameter utility line in the 2900 block of Zoo Drive, fire department spokeswoman Monica Munoz said.
Authorities closed the main entrance to the zoo and its parking lot as a public safety precaution. Police, meanwhile, shut down traffic lanes around the site of the leak.
No animals were taken out of the zoo, which had not yet opened to the public for the day, but employees were evacuated from the Wegeforth Bowl, Dickinson Center, gift shops, Reptile House, Tiger River and Treetops and the Benchley Building.
Zoo officials soon decided to keep the world-renowned menagerie closed for the day.
“All animals at the zoo are safe and secure,” San Diego Zoo Global, the nonprofit that operates the 113-year-old facility, stated in the late morning.
Just south of the zoo, all buildings along El Prado — including the San Diego Museum of Man, Museum of Art and Natural History Museum — were closed until further notice, as was Spanish Village, according to park officials. The Air and Space Museum, however, remained open, city spokesman Tim Graham said.
About 10:45 a.m., repair crews halted the leak, SDG&E spokeswoman Sara Prince said. It was unclear when natural gas service would be restored to the area.
“We’re assessing the damage, and then we’ll repair it,” Prince said in the late morning.
The zoo is undergoing a redesign of the Children’s Zoo area of the park, located near the front entrance.
SDG&E crews arrived at the scene around 8:30 a.m. and were working to cap the leak, Prince said.