PEOPLE have been warned to keep well clear of a large part of central Wangaratta after a natural gas main was ruptured this morning.
A backhoe operator cut through the main in Ovens Street at 9.10am.
Hundreds of people have been evacuated and are expected to be kept away for several hours.
Country Fire Authority rostered duty officer Stuart Walker said the main was damaged outside the Ovens Medical Group at 70 Ovens Street.
“We’ve got the road closed in Ovens Street between Reid Street and Ford Street,” he said just after 10am.
“We’ve got evacuations and have cleared all shops in the area including Safeway and the Safeway car park.
“We’re asking the community to stay away from the area and we’ll advise when the gas company has isolated the damage.
"We expect it would be between two and four hours before they can do that work.”
Mr Walker said the CFA had the Wangaratta pumper, a forward control vehicle and its mobile communications vehicle at the scene.
He said an extensive amount of dirt would need to be dug out by gas company workers to get to the main in order to fix the damage.
“I imagine the gas main will have to be isolated,” he said.