The Herald Bulletin

Overnight Update

Breaking News

December 11, 2012

West Virginia gas line explodes, burns homes and roads

SISSONVILLE, W.Va. — At least five homes went up in flames Tuesday afternoon and a badly burned section of Interstate 77 in West Virginia was closed after a natural gas line exploded in an hour-long inferno.

No injuries were immediately reported, but firefighters had just begun to reach damaged structures late in the afternoon after the intense flames kept them at bay for several hours.

Several people were treated for smoke inhalation, and a shelter was set up at Sissonville High School, where Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin planned a late-afternoon press conference

State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous said a slight risk of a secondary explosion remained, but people were told to stay inside their homes rather than evacuate. The explosion occurred near Sissonville just before 1 p.m. in a 20-inch transmission line owned by NiSource Inc., parent of Columbia Gas.

The gas flow was shut off, but 1st Sgt. James Lee said there was still pressure on the transmission line.

"The gas company is doing a check on it now," he said.

Kent Carper, president of the Kanawha County Commission, said flames had been shooting 50 to 75 feet into the air before the fire was extinguished.

"It sounded like a Boeing 757. Just a roar," he said. "It was huge. You just couldn't hear anything. It was like a space flight."

Trevor Goins lives about a half-mile from the explosion and was watching television in his apartment when he saw a ripple in his coffee cup and the floor shook.

"I thought possibly (it was) a plane crash," said Goins, who immediately went outside with several neighbors. "It was so loud it sounded like a turbine engine. You almost had to put your hands over your ears."

He got in his car and drove closer, seeing fire that stretched as high as the hilltops.

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