“Take your kids and run,” were the words told to families by Bord Gais officials after a gas leak at Kirk’s Station, Dublin Road, Dundalk on Wednesday night.
Gardai and the Dundalk Fire Service suspect that it was a hit and run - a vehicle knocked over the gas meter, causing the leak, and then fled the scene.
The Dundalk Fire Service responded to the call at 11.07pm on Wednesday, just after the petrol station had closed.
On arrival, the fire service found a large column of methane gas issuing from a gas pipe which was ruptured.
Chief Fire Officer Eamon Woulfe explained: “This was caused by the natural gas meter box outside the petrol station building being knocked over, possibly by a large vehicle.”
Over 50 people were evacuated from the adjacent apartment block and nearby houses. An Bord Gais workers eventually clamped the gas pipe and stopped the leak.
A local resident, whose family was evacuated, lives just doors away from the petrol station described the incident as “something from a movie.”
She said: “We heard noise from outside, so I woke my husband and we went outside.
“All we could hear was a loud noise from where the gas was leaking out.
“I phoned Bord Gais and they told me to take my kids and run. They also told us not to use the car. It was a terrifying experience.
“It was like something from a movie. People were running everywhere. Kids were in their pyjamas.
“I seen a young mother crying running with a newborn baby wrapped in blankets.”
The Dublin Road was blocked off from Hill Street to Meehan’s Garage.
Families who had been evacuated gathered together and watched on in horror from Meehan’s Garage.
“We could still hear the noise from Meehan’s.
“Everybody was crying.
“Nobody really understood what was happening. I was worried about my house.
“We believed that the houses and apartments were going to explode.”
At around 1.45am, residents were allowed back to their houses after Bord Gais workers ensured the area was safe.
“The worker escorted our family into the house and done tests to make sure it was safe.
“All the emergency workers were brilliant and done a great job.”
Gardai are investigating the incident and anybody with information is asked to contact Dundalk Gardai.