Freezing vigil: Traders’ camp out in their cars after gas leak leaves shops at risk

SHOPOWNERS braved sub-zero temperatures overnight to keep their businesses secure after a gas leak.

Many camped in their cars in Queen’s Road, Halifax, after gas engineers told businesses to keep their doors open day and night so gas can escape.

As Northern Gas Network yesterday continued to hunt for the leak, many shopowners were preparing to stay a second night to guard their goods.

One was 74-year-old Mohammed Choudhary, who owns Sanam take- away.

He said yesterday: “It was cold and uncomfortable. But I’m ready again for it tonight.

“I have to be here, otherwise people may take my stuff away and it is expensive. If I have to do it, I have to do it. I’ve no choice.”

Northern Gas Network staff said they would patrol through the night to watch over businesses but many traders did not want to take the risk.

Elaine Winston’s brother David Smith, 49, slept in his car outside their business MK Consultants – where 12 employees have been sent home. She said: “He didn’t sleep because the door was wide open and he was so worried.

“He said he stayed awake all night. I was so worried. I kept ringing him all through the night. It’s so frustrating. I don’t know why it’s taking so long to fix. All day Wednesday they were waiting for permission to close the road and the digger didn’t arrive until 6.30pm.” Residents on the road have been given temporary accommodation and the shop owners hope to claim compensation for lost business.

Mohammed Azeem, of A-Z Motor Factors Ltd, who also slept in his car, said he believes his businsess has lost in the region of £10,000 over the two days.

“It’s very frustrating. I stayed in my car because there’s about £1m of equipment in my building.

“We are losing a lot of money. We want compensation for it.”

Northern Gas Network engineers have closed the road at the junction with Hanson Lane until the work is finished.

A spokeswoman for Northern Gas Networks said all customers had been offered overnight accommodation and staff were on site around the clock and taking security seriously.

“Despite our best attempts to reassure a small minority of customers on security, they have chosen to decline the offer of accommodation and have slept overnight in their vehicles.

“Our engineers will work with any customers who still chose to decline our offer of accommodation to make sure they are given any other practical help we can provide as well as reassurance on any security concerns they may have.

“We will however do all that we can to complete the work as quickly as possible and keep any disruption to a minimum

“We never take chances with gas safety and will remain on site until we have completed a full repair.”