Parents pick up children at Harbison Elementary School after gas leak was discovered.
Parents pick up children at Harbison Elementary School after gas leak was discovered. Image via OnScene.TV

A construction crew accidentally cut through an underground utility line in a South Bay neighborhood Tuesday, prompting a gas leak that forced evacuations of a primary school, a strip mall and dozens of homes.

Workers excavating under a stretch of roadway in the 3400 block of East Eighth Street in National City as part of a cable-laying project ruptured the 6-inch-diameter pipeline about 10:30 a.m., according to fire department officials.

The resulting heavy stream of escaping flammable vapors forced evacuations of nearby Ira Harbison Elementary School along with a retail center and about 75 homes, said NCFD Chief of Emergency Services Frank Parra.

City officials established a temporary shelter at Camacho Recreation Center in the 1800 block of East 22nd Street for those displaced by the non- injury construction accident.

San Diego Gas & Electric personnel were still working to deactivate the broken gas line as of 3 p.m., Parra said. Authorities hoped to have the process complete and the evacuation orders rescinded by late afternoon or early evening, he said.