Burst pipe on Sunset Boulevard sparks UCLA flood

Firefighters open a storm drain to release the floodwaters. Picture: Reuters
Firefighters open a storm drain to release the floodwaters. Picture: Reuters
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WATER from a burst pipe inundated an American university campus with an estimated eight million gallons gushing forth in less than four hours.

People were stranded in campus garages and the renowned basketball court of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) was badly damaged after a 30in pipe under nearby Sunset Boulevard ruptured about 3:30pm on Tuesday, sending water 30ft into the air and creating a 15ft hole in the street.

“Unfortunately UCLA was the sink for this water source,” chancellor Gene Block said yesterday, as a clean-up and assessments of the damage began.

The burst came amid a drought. City officials have warned householders they face a $500 (£300) fine for overuse of water.

“We lost a lot of water, around 35,000 gallons a minute, which is not ideal in the worst drought in the city’s history,” LA councilman Paul Koretz said.

Athletic facilities and parking blocks at the UCLA campus were worst hit.

Five people were rescued by firefighters, some using inflatable boats, and more than 100 cars were marooned. No-one was injured.

The university’s Pauley Pavilion basketball centre, which was renovated at a cost of $132 million in 2012, was swamped, with the court under an inch of water and locker rooms flooded.

The other two campus buildings damaged were the Wooden Centre, which has training 
facilities for students, and the JD Morgan Centre, which houses its sports trophies, hall of fame and athletics offices.

Many students took the flooding in their stride, walking calmly across campus with their backpacks in ankle deep water.

Some saw a chance for fun, pulling out bodyboards and attempting to surf the floodwater.

Patrick Huggins and Matthew Bamberger, two 18-year-olds who live in nearby Westwood, said they were having a dull day until Mr Huggins’ mother told them about the flood.

“It was about up to my thigh, and I thought this is a good day for a little dip,” Mr Huggins said.

They took video of themselves diving and splashing in the flooded practice putting green used by the UCLA golf team.

The 93-year-old high-pressure riveted steel pipeline that ruptured spouted a fountain for about 3½ hours before it could be safely shut down, said Jim McDaniel of LA’s department of water and power.

Crews struggled to get to the area at rush hour and it took some time to identify which valves to shut off without disrupting domestic supplies, Mr McDaniel said. Some households lost their supplies but they were restored later. The cause of the burst pipe is unknown. Repair work was continuing yesterday.

Mr McDaniel said there was no “magic technology” to determine when a new water main was needed. The city’s replacement cycle means a 100 year old main might not be replaced for another 200 years. “Every city with ageing infrastructure has issues like this and we’re no exception,” added Mr McDaniel.

Founded in 1919, the campus offers 337 degree programmes. It has featured in films and television shows including Breathless, The OC and Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Former students include actor James Dean, Doors frontman Jim Morrison and director Francis Ford Coppola.