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Columbia Gas pipeline explosion rocks West Virginia town

12 December 2012

A gas line exploded in the town of Sissonville, 10 miles north of Charleston on December 11, starting a blaze that destroyed a number of homes and closed the main north-south arterial Interstate 77 freeway. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin told reporters that several people were transported from the scene for smoke inhalation-related injuries, but there were no deaths and everyone had been accounted for.

Tomblin said that the area within 1,000 feet of the explosion site has been evacuated. Flames from the fire  are reported to have risen more than 100 feet in the air, and jumped the highway caused the freeway asphalt top to melt.

Local officials said that some 1,600 local residents had been directly affected, either by losing power or because they had to take a 50 mile detour around the closed highway.

Columbia Gas, part of NiSource Inc, confirmed that one of its transmission lines was the source of the explosion.

"The site where the incident occurred has been secured and the fire has been contained," according to Chevalier Mayes, communications manager for the company. "There were residents near where the explosion occurred. Columbia Gas employees and first responders are working to assess the situation and accommodate the residents. Columbia Gas is still working to determine the cause of the explosion."

The National Transportation Safety Board announced that it was sending a team to investigate the blast and fires on December 12, and road crews are repairing damage to an 800-foot stretch of I-77.

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