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Gas pipeline explosion leaves thousands without heat in Manitoba, Canada

27 January 2014

Some 4,000 natural gas users have been without heat since a gas pipeline exploded on January 25 near Otterburne, 50 kilometres south of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The operator, TransCanada Pipelines, is working on a bypass around the damaged section and hopes to reconnect most users by noon on January 28.

Karl Johannson, TransCanada's executive vice-president and president of natural gas pipelines, said officials currently do not know what caused the fire and explosion.

The pipeline affected was one of two supplying the Manitoba Hydro natural gas distribution system in the area. Although only one was damaged, TransCanada had to shut off the gas supply to the second pipeline as a safety precaution in order to effect repairs to the damaged pipeline.

The pipeline explosion sent balls of flame up to 300 metres into the air.

Southern Manitoba has been in the grip of bitter cold since the explosion, with temperatures down to –32 C in the communities affected by the explosion, with wind chill making it closer to –45 C.

Investigators with the federal Transportation Safety Board were at the scene of the explosion on January 27

Senior investigator Jerry Berriault told CBC News he has seen "a crater about 30 feet in diameter, about 10 feet deep, and started inspecting fragments of pipe."

Berriault said it's too early to say what caused the blast, except to say it appears to have started on a 30-inch high-pressure gas line.

Johannson said 100 employees from across Canada are in Manitoba, working around the clock to repair the pipeline.

The affected lines also provide the main supply of natural gas to more than 100,000 Xcel Energy customers in the northern US as well.

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