Coconut Grove apartment building, daycare evacuated after reported gas leak

COCONUT GROVE, FLA. (WSVN) - - The all clear has been given after a Coconut Grove apartment building and a daycare were evacuated following a reported gas leak.

City of Miami Police and Fire Rescue units responded to the scene along Southwest 27th Avenue near 30th Street, at around 8 a.m., Wednesday.

According to officials, they initially evacuated an entire apartment building before expanding their perimeter to include a daycare center on the south side of the scene.

“The product will essentially be burned off in a safe manner,” Miami Fire Rescue Chief Joseph Zahralban said. “Because of that, we are expanding our perimeter, expanding the evacuation distance, so that we can ensure that not only our firefighters, our third-party contractor that’s here but also our residents are as safe as possible.”

The building’s property manager said a tank full of propane was buried about 30 years ago and discovered it, Wednesday morning.

7News cameras captured the evacuated children and their caretakers sitting underneath a pop-up tent.

Roshni Neslage rushed to the scene after her daughter’s daycare center was evacuated.

“I just want to make sure everyone’s OK,” she said. “I was really worried on my way here. I was really panicked that she wouldn’t be OK, but she’s fine.”

7Skyforce HD hovered over the scene where crews could be seen burning off the gas inside the buried tank using a tube. Flames could be seen coming from a burn-off tube that has a gas line attached to the underground gas tank. The tank’s size is unknown.

Once some of the gas was burned off, crews then replaced a valve. On Thursday, a private company will come in and move the tank out of its current spot, officials said.

Around 300 people in eight buildings and single-family homes were evacuated, officials said.

“We called 911,” a witness said. “Things got on a roll, and luckily, everyone got out, and everybody’s pets got out.”

The buried tank could be seen underneath a cover between two neighboring buildings.

Zahralban said the biggest danger surrounding the gas leak is the lack of known stability of the underground tank, which was left unmanaged.

“This is a gas that is heavier than air,” he said. “Because it’s heavier than air, it settles. It migrates through an area, and it will migrate until it finds an ignition source. Once it finds that ignition source, you could have a potential explosion. That’s why we’re taking this issue so seriously.”

He added that liquid propane transfers from a liquid to a vapor nearly 270 times, which means there could be a much larger presence of gas propane.

Late Wednesday night, Zahralban said, “Well, after 12 hours, I am pleased to report that the situation has been rendered safe.”

Yelba Monterey described the scene as “really scary.”

“I know that we needed to come out, but I hope they solve it soon,” she said.

Monterey and her son, Bruno, were unsure if they were going to return home, Wednesday night.

“I don’t know if we’ll go back to the apartment today, or we’re gonna go to a hotel or something,” she said.

No injuries were reported.

Police shut down Southwest 27th Avenue from Bird Road to Tigertail Avenue while crews released the gas. Authorities also shut down Shipping Avenue from Center Street to 27th Avenue.

Only Southwest 27th Avenue between U.S. 1 and South Bayshore Drive was affected by the Wednesday incident, police said.

All roadways were reopened just before 10:30 p.m.

“Well, we’ve been out here since 8 o’clock in the morning and look what time it is now,” the first witness said. “Like I said, this is a long run. We don’t know how long this is gonna keep on going.”

Police said they are coordinating with the American Red Cross to provide relief for the displaced families.

The City of Miami Fire Rescue Training Center was used as a shelter for those who need a place to stay.

Fire and police officials made their way building by building, home by home to make sure there was no more residual propane gas in the area.

Families were allowed back in their homes in the overnight hours.

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