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Gas line blast melts I-77 in W.Va.

Dec. 11, 2012 at 9:56 PM   |   Comments

SISSONVILLE, W.Va., Dec. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. officials said they have launched an investigation into a gas line explosion in West Virginia that caused a huge fire and melted part of Interstate 77.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday a go-ahead team has been assigned to investigate the natural gas transmission pipeline rupture and subsequent fire in Sissonville, about 10 miles from Charleston.

Officials evacuated nearby residents because of fears of another explosion, The Charleston Gazette reported.

Kanawha County Fire Coordinator C.W. Sigman said a 20-inch transmission line ruptured, causing the massive fire, and several homes were burned. Emergency officials said there had been no fatalities or serious injuries, the Gazette said.

"In all my years of experience, this is the biggest fire I've ever seen," Sigman said.

Robin Fields of Charleston told the Gazette she was worried for her best friend's husband who lives in a trailer near the explosion, which other friends said was destroyed. At least four families live in trailers near the blast, the report said.

Emily McComas, a Gazette copy editor, said she was sitting inside her home at Jenna Landing Apartments when lights began flickering before 1 p.m., the report said.

"That's when I heard something that sounded like a jet was directly overhead. I thought it was a tornado," McComas said.

The blast occurred just before 1 p.m. Crews had shut off one side of the gas pipe by 1:30 p.m., the report said. State officials said one lane of the interstate might be reopened.

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