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1 dead, 5 injured in gas pipeline explosion

The explosion took place roughly a mile from the site of a massive fuel leak last month.

An Alabaster firefighter walks near the scene of an explosion of a Colonial Pipeline, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016, in Helena, AL. CREDIT: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
An Alabaster firefighter walks near the scene of an explosion of a Colonial Pipeline, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016, in Helena, AL. CREDIT: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

A gasoline pipeline in central Alabama exploded Monday night, killing one pipeline worker and injuring five others. The ensuing fire burned 32 acres of nearby woodlands, and residents in a 3-mile radius were evacuated Monday afternoon, according to a statement from Gov. Robert Bentley (R).

The blaze has reportedly been contained, even while it continues to burn itself out. Responders have built an 80-foot-long, 8-foot-high earthen berm to contain the fire.

“Our deepest condolences go out tonight to the family and friends of the person who was lost today, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who were injured,” Colonial Pipeline, the company that owns the pipeline, said in a statement.

Colonial said the explosion was triggered when the pipeline was struck with a backhoe. The company has been in the process of construction a bypass for the pipeline, after a rupture in September released 250,000 gallons of gasoline. It was not immediately clear how the two incidents were related, though they occurred just a mile away from each other.

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Colonial Pipeline did not respond to ThinkProgress’ inquiries Monday morning, instead directing reporters to a site devoted to the incident.

According to Colonial Pipeline’s own website, “all injuries and accidents are preventable.”

The explosion is expected to trigger gas price hikes — again, after Georgia and Alabama saw a month of increases following September’s leak.

Alabama is also in the midst of a drought, which is making the region more vulnerable to wildfires. The governor has already issued a statewide ban on burning. And on Monday, before the explosion, a representative from the Alabama Forestry Service told local news, “the drought is serious,” and that the agency was spending all its time fighting forest fires. There were more than 1,000 fires in Alabama last month.

According to the EPA, Alabama will be increasingly at risk for drought as climate change worsens.