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Main pipe break floods UCLA, nearby streets with 10 million gallons of water

A main water pipe under the iconic Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles broke on Thursday, flooding UCLA and nearby streets with 10 million gallons of water with a geyser reaching a height of about 30 feet.

The water flooded buildings and parking structures on the UCLA campus, with the university's Pauley Pavilion basketball arena as one of the affected buildings.

The rushing water broke open a hole that has a diameter of about 10 feet, located just north of the Westwood campus of UCLA. Service crews on their way to address the situation were trapped in the traffic caused by the rush hour, and arrived at the site one-and-a-half hours later.

According to Jim McDaniel, general manager of the Department of Water and Power of Los Angeles, it took three-and-a-half hours before the department was able to shut off the ruptured 30-inch, 93-year-old pipe.

In response to the criticisms against the agency regarding the slow response to the incident, McDaniel said that after fighting through the rush hour traffic, the responders had to determine the correct valve to close.

"We had to do research to get to the correct valve," he said. If the wrong valves were closed, many residents in the city would have been cut off from their water supply.

The pipe carried about 75,000 gallons of water per minute, according to department spokeswoman Michele Vargas, part of the water pipe system that supplies the city of Los Angeles with a daily water supply of about 55 million gallons.

While there were no reported injuries caused by the flood, city fire officials said that there were three motorists that were stranded by the water. The motorists have since been safely rescued from the flooded area.

Firefighters were also able to rescue at least five people that were trapped inside underground parking facilities using inflatable boats.

The Pauley Pavilion basketball arena just underwent a renovation that cost $132 million, completed on October 2012. Other areas affected by the flood, according to UCLA officials, include the track and field stadium, an athletic field, the J. D. Morgan Center, the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame, the George Kneller Academic Center, and the John Wooden Center.

While some students are taking advantage of the dire situation by going for a free swim in the water, Brian Humphrey, fire department spokesman, warned that the water levels are strong enough to take people out from under their feet.

"People are standing in the water almost out of a sense of amusement," Humphrey said. "It doesn't take much more than an ankle depth of water to sweep somebody into harm's way, so we're hoping to get UCLA campus officials to move people here away ... from this very dramatic cascade of water."

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