Part of Paisley was last night declared a no-go zone as a massive gas leak led to fears of a catastrophic explosion.
A 200-metre exclusion zone was set up at the Phoenix Retail Park at around 5pm after a workman operating a mechanical digger struck a huge gas main, causing it to rupture.
Movie fans were evacuated from the nearby Showcase Cinema and shoppers at the Asda superstore were told to clear the area.
A number of restaurants and car garages were also closed as the dramatic lockdown took effect.
The emergency services raced to the scene as a cloud of gas spewed into the air and drifted menacingly over homes and businesses.
And experts have warned it could be lunchtime today –at the earliest – before the disruption comes to an end.
Group Commander Gary Wallace, of Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, told the Paisley Daily Express: “This is a serious incident and safety must come first.”
People who had been evacuated from the area contacted the Express to tell how the drama unfolded.
A 34-year-old Paisley man, who asked not to be named, said: “I was taking my wife to the cinema but, before we even got to the car park, we were told to turn around and head out of there.
“We’d been looking forward to seeing a film but, when you checked out what was going on around you, it felt like you were in a scene from a movie.”