Massive Gas Pipeline Explosion Near St. Petersburg
Early this morning a major gas pipeline in NW Russia blew up -- details are still sketchy, but witnesses are reporting a huge explosion, and roads clogged as vehicles try to escape the area. Developing story.
Photos at right are courtesy of Tim's English Russia blog.
ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - An explosion and fire hit a major gas pipeline in northwest Russia early on Thursday but it was unclear if exports were affected, officials and witnesses said.
"It is an explosion on a trunk gas pipeline under high pressure," said Valentin Sedorin, a spokesman for the Leningrad region around Russia's second city of St Petersburg.
It was not immediately clear if the pipeline carried gas for export. The main route for Russian gas to Europe, the Yamal-Europe pipeline, is well to the south. But a pipeline shipping gas to Finland is near the area where the explosion happened.
There was no word on casualties but witnesses spoke of a massive explosion that shook buildings 5 km away. Officials did not say what caused the blast.
A Reuters reporter on his way to the scene of the blast by road said he could see flames and the air was thick with smoke. He said the opposite carriageway was clogged with vehicles trying to flee.
A spokesperson for TGC-1, an electricity generating company with a power station on the outskirts of St Petersburg, said the explosion was at a gas pipeline next to the station.
Emergency services officials said windows at the power station had been blown out by the force of the blast.
"I live 5 km (from the power station). My house shook and the residents ran out onto the street," said Andrei Alyabev, a local spokesman for the Emergencies Ministry.
"Initial information is that it was an explosion on a gas pipeline. The rumbling went on for about 40 minutes and has just finished," he said.
An eyewitness who gave her name as Lena said the blast happened at about 00.15 a.m. (2015 GMT) and was followed by a large fire. "I am about 2 km away and I can see flames," she said.