South Bay schools evacuated due to natural gas odor - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

South Bay schools evacuated due to natural gas odor

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NATIONAL CITY (NEWS 8) - A natural gas odor prompted evacuations at two schools in National City on Monday.

About 1000 students from El Toyon and Rancho de la Nación Elementary Schools were evacuated around 8:30 a.m.

Students at El Toyon started vomiting and complained of bad headaches.

Ramon Cruz started feeling sick too; the 4th grader said the strong odor of natural gas made it tough to breathe.

SDG&E takes the blame as they're upgrading a natural gas line at 4th Street and Palm Avenue - about a quarter mile away from the schools.

"We really regret the inconvenience and the confusion this incident caused during the routine maintenance on one of our natural gas pipelines," said SDG&E spokesman Joe Britton.

In order to do the work, they had to bleed the line, meaning they released gas into the air.

They say they warned those within 500 feet of the work that it was happening, but El Toyon and Rancho de la Nación are outside that zone and never got notified.

"You know how you turn your stove on and you don't get it to click and you smell the gas? It smelled worse than that," said Shirley Smith who was monitoring El Toyon's front gate when the smell hit her.

Students at both elementary school were evacuated and eventually bussed to other schools where their parents picked them up.

"It's concerning, especially when I have three kids in school," said Ramon Cruz's mother.

She was thankful her kids were OK and is hoping the others make a speedy recovery.

SDG&E says the area is safe and students and staff were allowed to return to the school after 1 p.m. to retrieve the items they left behind.

School officials released the following statement:

Early this morning both El Toyon and Rancho de la Nación Schools were evacuated due to a strong smell of gas fumes.

The National City Police Department and SDG&E confirmed that this was caused by a routine bleed to the gas lines, which caused the strong odor. There is no emergency at this time. Students and staff were evacuated to Wrigleys due to the strong odor and were taken by school bus to evacuation sites.

El Toyon students were transported to Lincoln Acres school. Rancho de la Nación students were transported to Ira Harbison School. Parents wishing to pick up their students may do so from their evacuation sites. Any additional information will be shared as needed."

- Yvette Olea Executive Assistant to the Superintendent and Governing Board

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