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Alabama petroleum gas line explodes, killing one worker

The blast occurred about 1 mile west of a section of pipe that leaked last month, spilling more than 300,000 gallons of gas.

By Stephen Feller

HELENA, Ala., Oct. 31 (UPI) -- One worker died Monday and at least five others were severely injured when a gas pipeline exploded in central Alabama, just south of Birmingham, authorities said.

A petroleum gas line owned by Colonial Pipeline exploded in Shelby County while a crew was performing maintenance, sending several workers to area hospitals.

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Colonial Pipeline shut down its main lines in Shelby County -- the company operates two, one of which leaked about 300,000 gallons of gas last month -- and was working with emergency officials to control the fire.

"The fire will not be out any time soon," Shelby County Sheriff's Maj. Ken Burchfield said, though officials noted that the fire did not appear to pose a danger to homes or residents, aside from two homes about a half-mile from the explosion site that were evacuated.

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Subcontractors for Colonial were preparing to flush one of the gas lines and had just started to dig when the pipe exploded.

Those injured were being treated at the University of Alabama-Birmingham's hospital, while Shelby Baptist Medical Center reported they were treating six or seven people with "non-critical" injuries.

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The worker who was killed and those injured work for the L.E. Bell Construction company.

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The explosion occurred about 1 mile west of the site of a leak, according to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, that hemorrhaged 300,000 gallons of gas in September. After that leak, Colonial had a temporary bypass constructed around the affected area of the pipe, which was removed and sent to a laboratory for analysis.

The company said on Oct. 27 that it planned to perform "system integrity work" this month and next in preparation to remove the temporary bypass, though it is unclear whether the work being conducted before the explosion was related to the bypass removal.

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