RESIDENTS had to be evacuated as a damaged gas pipe, caused by workmen installing fibre optic cables, leaked fumes into their homes.

People in Radford Street, Darwen, were told they would need to leave their homes when engineers from Virgin Media ruptured a gas main as they were laying broadband cables.

One resident, Kirsty Wilson, was forced to take the day off work so technicians from the gas emergency service, Cadent, could inspect her house and make it safe by fitting a new service.

Miss Wilson said that she had failed to be informed of the work being carried out by Virgin Media, and was angered further when workmen left the road in a mess, causing access problems for residents.

She said: “I didn’t get a letter from Virgin until after they came to do the work. There was no prior warning.

“On the third day of the work being carried out, I came home from work and a gas man was outside my house and told me I couldn’t go inside as Virgin had cut through my gas pipe and he had to have entry to check my house was safe.

“He went inside and told me I had to vent my house as the pipe had been leaking.

“Had I not come home, he was going to get a locksmith and force entry.”

The Cadent technician told Miss Wilson she couldn’t return to work as they needed access for the whole day, resulting in her having to take time off from her job.

She added: “To make it worse, Virgin left rubble all over the outside of my house and cleared off without clearing it.

“And on Thursday, I heard another gas pipe had been cut in the Whitehall area, as residents could smell gas for hours.”

A spokesman for Cadent, the gas emergency service who manages the North West’s gas mains, said: “One of our underground gas mains was damaged as a third party carried out work close to it.

“We dispatched an emergency team and they arrived on site quickly.

“As a safety precaution, two people were evacuated from their homes, after we found high gas readings inside their property.

“Our repair engineers stopped the leak and fixed the damage, before leaving site around 9pm.”

A spokesperson for Virgin Media said: “Virgin Media is in the process of expanding its network in the Darwen area.

“Contractors working on our behalf damaged a separate utility firms’ infrastructure and a full investigation is being carried out.

“With regards to the condition of pathways and roads, this is monitored by the local highways authority and any remedial work required will be completed before we leave the area. We apologise for any inconvenience caused to local residents.”