WARRINGTON town centre was evacuated today after a major gas leak.
Bovis workmen ruptured a gas main in Golbourne Street just after 10am and, as large amounts of gas escaped, police put up a 700m exclusion zone around the area.
A major incident response was launched by emergency services, shoppers were told to leave town centre shops, office workers were evacuated, cases at Warrington crown court were halted and passengers were cleared from the bus station.
The area was reopened at noon and people were allowed to return to the town centre.
Fire crews attended one fire at a nearby scrapyard and remained on standby, with ambulance crews, on the outskirts of Warrington as a precaution.
No injuries or explosions have been reported.
A spokesman for Cheshire police said: "Warrington town centre was evacuated and there were lots of road closures in the area."
The usual lunchtime trade at Shellys restaurant on Bold Street dried up as shoppers and workers were diverted out of town.
A spokeswoman said: "We had a policeman at both ends of our road. We weren't told to close up or evacuate although we are quite near the city centre. Our chef got caught up in all the traffic and wasn't able to get into work."
Tony Rogers, of News Corner newsagents on Froghole Lane, said: "The traffic was all diverted past us and we are on the edge of town. It was nose to tail both ways."
Those evacuated during the incident were directed to Riverside retail park while roads leading into Warrington town centre were closed.