Seven million gallons of water flooded a busy Northwest Philadelphia shopping center and forced some to be evacuated from stores using an inflatable raft after a major water main break Thursday afternoon.
The 120-year-old, 48-inch main broke open around 3 p.m. at the Bakers Square shopping center at Fox Street and Roberts Avenue in the East Falls section of Philadelphia, water department officials said.
"All of the sudden the water is flooding and it came very, very fast," said Kal Rotbard, who works at Got the Look, a clothing store in the center.
Water gushed from under the parking lot next to Got the Look and flooded a ShopRite supermarket, Ross discount store, Fine Wine and Good Spirits and several other businesses. Several cars were left underwater as well.
"It wouldn't even start so there's water inside," said Joyce Coker, who was inside the Dollar Plus store when the break happened. "There's water up to the wheels so, just turn in to my insurance agency. That's all I can do."
"We could not go out of the store," Rotbard said of the flooding. Firefighters used an inflatable raft to evacuate some people from the area. Others walked through the water holding firefighters' arms. In all, about 100 people were evacuated, according to Philadelphia Fire Executive Chief Clifford Gilliam.
The shopping center is built on the site of the former Tastykake factory and is a few blocks away from the Philadelphia Water Department's Queen Lane Reservoir.
It took crews nearly an hour and a half to shut down the water flow. Water department spokesman John DiGiulio said crews must make several hundred manual turns to a valve to stop the flow.
Rotbard said this is the second time in the past year a water main break flooded the shopping center. He said one broke right before the center opened last year.
DiGiulio confirmed a water main did burst last January, but said it was a different pipe. There are four 48-inch mains in this location, he added.
The shopping center main break comes less than a week after a major main ruptured in West Philadelphia sending more than 12 million gallons of water rushing through a part of that neighborhood.