More Dallas homes evacuated because of potential gas leaks

- Atmos Energy is again expanding the evacuations in the Dallas neighborhood where a home exploded last week.

The utility results of an expanded leak survey prompted the precautionary evacuation of 60 additional homes on Tuesday in the 3700 blocks of Matador Drive, Park Lane and Rockdale Drive.

About 90 families living in the Chapel Creek Apartments also remain evacuated, bringing the total number of evacuated homes to about 300.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Atmos crews also evacuated nearby Fire Station 43 after a gas leak in front of the building.

Hundreds of concerned residents packed Foster Elementary School in Northwest Dallas Tuesday afternoon. They wanted answers from city leaders and Atmos and wanted assurance the repair work being made won't lead to another tragedy like the one that killed 12-year-old Michellita Rogers.

Last Friday, 12-year-old Michellita was killed when her family’s home on Espanola Drive exploded. Neighbors said there were also two other gas-related fires in the same neighborhood.

But during the Tuesday meeting, an Atmos spokesperson says they didn’t have answers, and the NTSB is now in charge.

"Atmos Energy has been throwing every resource that we have on making sure that you all are safe,” said spokesperson Jennifer Altieri. “NTSB has taken over this investigation. We are in agreement right now to let them take the questions. We want answers, too."

And when people did not get answers, they called for the Atmos Energy CEO to come to Dallas.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told the crowd that the NTSB is working with Atmos to make sure that the repairs are being done safely.

"We're going to get through this,” the mayor said. “This is a tricky situation. A life has been lost. Property has been lost. We've got infrastructure issues, but we will persevere and get through this."

People still want to know why Atmos did not warn or evacuate them after the two gas explosions that preceded the deadly one on Espanola Drive.

The Rogers family attorney, who was also at the meeting, says he is investigating reports there was an Atmos crew there at the time of the explosion.

Atmos told FOX 4 that they were “unable to comment on the incident on Espanola Drive because it is under the NTSB jurisdiction...Evacuations are made out of an abundance of caution to our customers."

Atmos said it is working with state and federal investigators to learn more about the suspected natural gas leak. It is also replacing two miles of natural gas piping in the area. So far, they have replaced approximately two-thirds of the piping in the affected area. 

Atmos Energy crews went door-to-door Tuesday attempting to restore natural gas service to some 50 residents in a three-block area. For the residents that were home, they replaced their gas meters and checked for leaks. Crews hung tags on the doors of homes where no one was home.

But even people who have had their gas turned back on say they feel nervous.

“It’s a big safety hazard for everybody here,” said Mayra Vielma, who lives in the area. “We don’t know if it’s actually safe to turn on your stove, if it’s safe to turn on your heater.”

After five days without gas, Margarita Saabdra is relieved it’s back on but is also concerned.

“I’m a little scared,” she admitted. “I’m a little worried about what’s happening in the next street.”

Atmos is providing hotel room vouchers for the evacuated residents and more than $170,000 in gift cards. They are encouraged to visit www.atmosenergy.com/alerts for updates.

The Rogers family will bury their daughter this week. The family’s attorney says they're having trouble with the NTSB not letting the family access the home. He says the family is trying to get a cross to bury her with and immigration paperwork to be able to get people here for her funeral.

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