As many as 400 people were evacuated from the Triad Center, Union Pacific railroad station and surrounding businesses for about an hour after a backhoe ripped a large hole in a 6-inch gas main early Thursday at the Jazz arena construction site.

Mountain Fuel Supply Co. crews shut off the escaping gas by noon, and people were allowed back into surrounding buildings. It required digging and then clamping the line 100 feet east and west of the hole. The line is part of an interlocking grid system and fed with gas from both directions."We've got a large volume of gas escaping. We have a potential for an explosion," said Salt Lake Fire Battalion Chief Gordon Nichol as crews shut off the leak.

Natural gas roared out of the ground after the backhoe struck the line about 10:30 a.m. on the north side of the arena located between 300 and 400 West and South Temple and 100 South.

The sound of escaping gas could be heard a block away, and 8-12 mph winds forced the evacuation of buildings between the break and North Temple. Police also cordoned off an area two blocks in every direction from the break.

Concentrations of gas were found in the basement of the Triad and firefighters feared an explosion.

Among the last to leave the building was anchorman Bruce Lindsay, who told viewers that if reporters can stay on the air in Iraq with bombs exploding around them, then KSL reporters can stay on the air with a gas leak.