Gas explosion in rural Kentucky kills one, ignites homes

A gas line explosion shortly after midnight on Thursday in a residential community in rural Kentucky sent up a ball of flame that could be seen for miles, killing one person and setting several houses on fire, a local sheriff said.

The explosion in Moreland, a community about 40 miles (65 km) south of Lexington, was on a natural gas pipeline operated by Canadian energy firm Enbridge Inc, the company said in a statement.

A woman who was killed in the explosion was found outside her home, Lincoln County Sheriff Curt Folger said. Initial indications were that no one else was injured.

"We're trying to get a head count," Folger added.

About five homes caught fire and firefighters worked to extinguish those blazes, Folger said.

Flames from the blast rose about 300 feet (100 meters) in the air, Lexington television station WKYT reported, citing emergency managers. The WKYT meteorologist said the fire showed up on radar, according to the station.

"It woke us up and it was just a big roar and it was fire going up into the sky as far as you could see," area resident Sue Routin told Lexington television station Lex 18.

The pipeline was 30 inches (76 cm) in diameter, Folger said, and was shut off after the blast.

The pipeline is part of Enbridge's Texas Eastern system, the company said. The system connects Texas and the U.S. Gulf Coast with states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, according to the company's website.

The amount of gas flowing from the Marcellus and Utica shale in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia south toward the Gulf Coast on the Texas Eastern pipeline in parts of Kentucky dropped to zero on Thursday from an average of 1.7 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) over the past week, according to pipeline flow data from Refinitiv.

One billion cubic feet is enough to supply about five million U.S. homes for a day.

Enbridge said in a statement it has isolated the affected line and was working closely with emergency responders to manage the situation.

The explosion followed another fatal incident on Wednesday at an oil and gas site in Colorado, north of Denver.

In the Colorado incident, firefighters responding to a fire at an oil tank found an unresponsive man on top of the tank, at the site just outside the community of Windsor, said Windsor Severance Fire Rescue Chief Kris Kazian. The victim was later pronounced dead.

The site was operated by Denver-based firm Great Western Oil & Gas Co. A company representative could not be reached for comment. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, additional reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York, Keith Coffman in Denver and Arpan Varghese and Swati Verma in Bengaluru Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and David Gregorio)