PENSIONERS were forced to leave their homes after a gas leak in Hetton.
Properties in Richard Street, John Street and the surrounding area were evacuated after the leak was reported yesterday afternoon.
About 25 homes were affected, including 12 old people’s bungalows in Railway Terrace and Pemberton Street.
Residents taken to the nearby Hetton Centre by police officers.
Police put up a 100-metre cordon around the affected area, which was in place for most of the afternoon.
It is believed the leak was caused by thieves attempting to steal copper piping from an empty semi-detached building.
Admin clerk Kathleen Brown, 58, who lives in High Richard Street, returned home from work in Murton to find the street had been sealed off, leaving three pets trapped inside her terraced home.
“The police won’t let me back up,” she said. “I’ve got a dog, a cat and a puppy and that’s all I can think of.
“She’s a Scottie-Yorkie cross called Lulu, and she’s been on her own since 8.30am.
“She’s not used to be left on her own, because I have been taking her to work until recently.”
Neighbour Julie-Anne Fenwick, who works at the Premier Inn, said the leak is thought to have started in an empty flat.
“One lass had been working night shift, and only had three hours’ sleep when the police knocked her up.
“She works at a call centre in Doxford and when she rang her bosses to say she couldn’t come in, they didn’t believe her,” the 31-year-old added.
Drinkers in the Hetton Workingmen’s Club, Hetton Victory Club and the Prince of Wales, known as the Number Nine, were ordered to sup up while the area was cleared.
Sixteen firefighters from Sunderland West, Central and Gateshead South community fire stations used breathing apparatus and specialist equipment to trace the source of the leak and force their way into the building.
Gas engineers then capped the pipes off to make them safe.
A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said: “At 11.58am, police received a report of a gas leak at a property in Richard Street, Hetton.
“A cordon was put in place and residents in the street were evacuated to the Hetton Centre as a precaution. The fire service and gas engineers attended and the area has now been made safe.”
Police are investigating the incident.