A natural gas leak followed quickly by a fire in a supermarket in the same vicinity of West Long Branch prompted evacuations from several buildings late this morning.

According to Mike Kinney at New Jersey Natural Gas in Wall Township, a contractor punctured a service line, triggering the leak near the Branches catering firm.

Police closed Route 71 between Evergreen Lane and Route 36 while NJNG crews completed repairs. Several surrounding buildings were evacuated as a precaution.

At about the same time, said West Long Branch PD Captain Larry Milon, a fire broke out in the bakery inside the ShopRite in the nearby Paddock Plaza.

All available police were summoned to the shopping center to escort customers and staffers from the store.

The road was reopened, according to Kinney, by about 12:05 PM. Milon says that the store will be reopened once the borough Board of Health finishes inspections.