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'I Thought We Were In The River': Massive Water Main Break Causes Major Flooding In Kingsessing

PHILADEPHIA (CBS) -- A huge water main break turned streets into rivers in Philadelphia's Kingsessing neighborhood Wednesday. Homes and cars were flooded. Some were evacuated while others had to be rescued.

The Water Department estimates 8 million gallons leaked.

The water has drained away, but the mess remains. As the extent of the damage comes into focus, repairs are underway on the main.

Major Water Main Break Floods Intersection In Philadelphia's Kingsessing Section

It ruptured around 6 a.m. at 56th Street and Springfield Avenue.

Officials say this is one of the largest water mains in the city of Philadelphia at 48 inches. The rupture that occurred just after 6 a.m. left a significant amount of damage behind.

"I thought we were in the river somewhere," Kingsessing resident Ab Francis said.

It was a gnarly scene that resembles the earth opening up.

"Everybody is in bad shape, but we gotta work it out," Roosevelt Cochran said.

The cleanup continues after thousands of gallons of water flooded the streets of this Kingsessing neighborhood.

"I thought I was gonna see a boat coming down here," Francis said.

There were no boat rescues, but officials say one person was extricated from a basement apartment. The fire department says they assisted several people, along with transporting two people to the hospital.

"It was like a loud explosion and we didn't know what it was so we ran out the house," Marva Odem said.

The extreme sound of the eruption can be attributed to the amount of water flowing through the 42-inch main.

While this line didn't directly carry water to homes, it's just the latest example of the city's aging system.

The transmission main was built in 1921, making it more than 100 years old.

"This is just carrying water to different parts of the city. It's not affecting people's water in their house," Philadelphia Fire Deputy Chief Kamel Wright said.

"We never want a main break to occur but when they do occur, our job is to come out here and respond quickly as possible and minimize any impacts to the customers," said Brian Rademaekers with the Philadelphia Water Department.

The Water Department manages 3,100 miles of water mains and is currently replacing about 19 miles every year. They hope to double that pace by 2026 with support from the federal government's infrastructure plan.

A number of basements flooded and needed pumping.

"It was about two feet coming up. Take me two hours to pump it out," Garfield Phillip said.

"The whole basement is flooded with water. Everything I have down there is completely damaged," Odem said.

Cars also had to be suctioned. Some may be a total loss.

"I just got a brand new car. Flooded from the top to the bottom," Paula Allen said.

"They've been out here fixing these pipes forever. They fix them, they leak. They come back," Leah Seldon with Children Space Learning Academy said.

"They were here all summer digging up our streets, leaving it all raggedy. Now, this is what we're waking up to today," Allen said.

There are definitely a lot of frustrated neighbors. At least 16 public schools were closed Wednesday due to no or low water pressure.

Families were asked to pick up students who may have arrived at schools before the decision to close by the School District of Philadelphia. A representative from the school district says water has been restored and those schools will reopen Thursday.

There was also a concern this break would disrupt gas service. There is a strong smell of gas in the air.

PGW has been on scene but they say residents have been cleared to stay in their homes.

Residents in the area affected by the main break can find more information on the response to the break by clicking here.

CBS3's Alecia Reid and Alicia Roberts contributed to this report.

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