A 30-inch water main broke early yesterday in North Philadelphia, spewing tens of thousands of gallons into residential basements and leaving a yawning crater in the middle of the road.

The cast-iron pipe erupted about 1:30 a.m. on the 2100 block of North Fourth Street, said Laura Copeland, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Water Department.

"We're still assessing the damage. We don't know what caused it," Copeland said, speculating that weather might have been a factor.

The water flooded the basements of 13 homes. By the afternoon, Copeland said, all the basements had been pumped out. Meanwhile, a crew of eight plumbers worked to replace nearly a dozen water heaters and furnaces destroyed by the flooding.

Copeland said the gaping sinkhole created by the rupture would take up to a week to repair.

The Streets Department diverted traffic near the site, about a block from McKinley Elementary School. Susquehanna Avenue was closed from American Street to Fifth Street, and Fourth Street was closed from Diamond Street to Susquehanna.

At Fourth and Susquehanna, Victor Boulogne, 23, and his wife, Milagros Garcia, 40, lamented the damage the flood caused to their home, which had about three to four feet of water in the basement.

Their washing machine was tilted, and a computer and its monitor, along with a television set, were destroyed.

"We lost everything down there. The washing machine, dryer, computer, clothes," Boulogne said.

Boulogne said the family was without heat or gas until the Water Department and other city agencies made repairs.

Garcia said her husband called the department Monday night when they noticed water in the road. She said that department employees inspected the intersection but that it was unclear what, if any, repairs they made.

"There was a small leak; it wasn't that big," Garcia said.

Yesterday morning, a hole took up at least half of the intersection.

Next door to Boulogne's rowhouse, Claudia Colon wore boots and blue rubber gloves as she stood at the door of her mother's home.

Colon said that her mother, who was out of town, has lived at the house for 42 years and that yesterday's main break was the second at the site in 12 years. "It was the same pipe, but it didn't get as bad as it did this time," Colon said.

Colon said gas and electric service was disrupted for a few hours.