A group of engineers repairing an emergency gas leak were seen smoking cigarettes while residents watched on in fear from their homes.

Workers are renewing the underground pipes in Amherst Crescent, Hove, and are expected to be on site for 12 weeks.

But on Tuesday one worker struck a pipe with their machinery causing a gas leak, with residents urgently told to keep their windows shut.

Signs were put up telling people not to smoke in the area, but workers were seen sparking up their cigarettes at the site of the leak.

“Yesterday they hit a pipe with their machinery so there was a leak. We had to keep all our windows shut,” one resident told The Argus.

“Everywhere on their boards are signs saying no smoking. Yet the workers stand around smoking cigarettes. I couldn’t believe my eyes.”

The Argus: A worker smoking in the area where a gas leak was reportedA worker smoking in the area where a gas leak was reported (Image: Submitted)

It was feared that residents could be caught up in an explosion if gas in the air was to ignite.

Gas distribution company SGN, which is in charge of the works, said it is taking urgent action to ensure safety protocols are followed.

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Bradley Barlow, spokesman for SGN, said: “This is not acceptable behaviour on one of our sites and we’re grateful for the member of the public bringing it to our attention.

“The work is being carried out by one of our contractors and we’ve taken action immediately to remind them of our safety policies.”

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It comes after a recycling site has been forced to close following a gas leak in September.

The site, near Old Shoreham Road in Hove, was temporarily shut on September 12 as a result of the incident, with people urged to visit the alternative site in Wilson Avenue in Brighton.

A leaking pipe at Hove tip was disconnected and made safe.

A spokesman for SGN said: “On Tuesday, September 12, we attended a recycling site near Old Shoreham Road in Hove following reports of a smell of gas.

“We completed our investigations, disconnected a leaking pipe and made the site safe.”