SHOPS on Market Street in Darwen were evacuated today after a gas main ruptured.

The alarm was raised by staff at Ainsworth Lord Estates, who smelt the gas upon arrival at work and called in engineers.

Lisa-Marie Duffy, the duty manager said: “There was a very strong smell so we called in the engineers who took readings and said there was a danger of explosion.

“Ourselves and two shops next to us were evacuated. Engineers from the Electricity board also arrived and began digging up the pavements. And the fire brigade were also on the scene.

Business owner Paul Ainsworth-Lord, said: “Luckily our emergency procedures were implemented, calls were diverted to our back-up call centre and staff were able to work from home dealing with email and appointments.

“It is not yet known when the businesses will be able to return to their premises. Other businesses affected include Divas Salon, and the Tea Rooms."