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Pipeline Blast Engulfs WV Interstate

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

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Crews were searching for victims late Tuesday (Dec. 11) after five homes were torched and part of Interstate 77 was engulfed in flames from a gas-pipeline explosion that ignited a massive fireball just north of Charleston, WV.

The explosion along the Columbia Gas Transmission natural gas pipeline occurred around 12:40 p.m. ET in Sissonville, WV, and West Virginia State Police closed about a mile of Interstate 77 in both directions. Sissonville is about 15 miles north of Charleston, the state capital.

Several area residents were treated for smoke inhalation, some reports said, but no other injuries were reported immediately

About 2 p.m. ET, the Kanawha County Sherrif's Department tweeted that traffic remained shut down on I-77N at the 77/79 split in Charleston. The department said that the pipeline owner was working to shut off the gas and that some of the flames were subsiding.

Sissonville, WV, explosion
Photos: Jalopnik
The initial blaze was so intense that firefighters could not get near it, authorities said.

The Sheriff's Department posted no additional updates in the next several hours.

NiSource Line

The line is owned and operated by NiSource Inc, a company spokeswoman confirmed late Tuesday. She told Reuters that the explosion had hit near the Lanham compressor station just before 1 p.m. ET.

She also told the news service that the fire had been contained, while news reports, authorities and numerous homemade videos indicated otherwise.

NiSource posted no information on its website as of 4:30 p.m. ET. NiSource Gas Transmission & Storage company operates more than 15,000 miles of interstate natural gas pipelines across 16 states.

The NiSource spokeswoman described the line as 20 inches in diameter; emergency reponders called it a 36-inch line. The discrepancy could not be immediately clarified.

The pipeline explosion in West Virginia sent a wall of flames across Interstate 77 just north of Charleston.

A 36-inch line is about the biggest the industry uses, said Brigham McCown, a Dallas lawyer and consultant who was the first acting head of the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Sheltering, Evacuation Orders Issued

Flames initially shot 50 to 75 feet in the air and burned so intensely the firefighters could not get near the blaze. Multiple crews of responders were staging at the scene.

Local schools were sheltering students in place until late afternoon, when officials said the county's board of education was making plans to get the students home, Fox News reported.

Residents of a nearby nursing home were reported safe, but residents near the blast site were being urged to evacuate due to concerns of a secondary explosion, Fox reported.

Sgt. Michael Baylous told The Tribune-Review that it was unclear whether anyone had been hurt.

Video of Sissonville, WV, explosion
alertpage / YouTube
The explosion occurred just before 1 p.m. The cause was not immediately known.

There are three gas transmission lines about 0.8 miles north of the explosion site, according to the federal government's National Pipeline Mapping System.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Explosions; Fire; Oil and Gas; Pipeline

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