By William Lee
8:18 AM CST, December 20, 2011
A large main cracked open in the Pilsen neighborhood overnight, pouring a river of water into streets, basements and businesses.
The 36-inch cast iron main broke in the 1500 block of West 21st Street at about 8:30 p.m. Monday, authorities said.
Tom LaPorte, a spokesman for the Chicago Water Department, said crews worked to close off valves to stem the flow. The large main carries water from one end of the city to another, he said.
Area streets resembled a fast-moving stream as water gushed from the gaping pipe. Blue Island and Ashland avenues between 18th and 19th streets were closed. City workers erected barriers between Cermak Road and 19th Street.
Many residents reported flooded homes.
In Walter Green's basement, couches were floating. "All my furniture is destroyed downstairs," he told WGN-TV. "We're looking at maybe 3 to 3½ feet of water. We basically lost everything."
Some business owners closed their shops and complained of water damage.
Marco Sarmiento, owner of Pilsen's Mini Mart, said he was forced to close early. "It's definitely affecting my sales, (but) the main thing is to keep everyone safe," he said.
Added Derardo Nunez: "I live in the basement -- unfortunately it's impossible to be there. A lot of water. ... I lose everything, everything."
The broken main is located on the grounds of Benito Juarez Community Academy High School.
Darrio Ramirez, a building engineer at Juarez, 2150 S. Laflin St., said the school's gymnasium was under water Monday night. "A lot of water is coming out (of the water main). It's coming up heavy," he said.
Classes were being held at the school today, principal Juan Carlos Ocon said this morning. He said the flooding had not caused any problems at the school, but that as a precaution no hot meals would be served until it was determined water supplies had not been contaminated.
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