HELENA, Ala. (AP) — At least seven workers were injured Monday when an explosion occurred along the Colonial Pipeline in rural Alabama, not far from where it burst last month, authorities said.
The explosion sent flames soaring over the forest about a mile west of where the pipeline burst in September, Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement. That rupture led to gasoline shortages across the South.
People within 3 miles of the blast site were being evacuated, the governor said.
“We’ll just hope and pray for the best,” Bentley added.
Video from area media shows a huge plume of flame and smoke rising in a wooded area in Shelby County southwest of Birmingham.
The seven injured workers were taken to Birmingham hospitals by helicopter and ambulance, Bentley told WBRC-TV in a live interview Monday evening.
“It appears to have been an accident, and they’re allowing fuel to burn,” Bentley said. “It’s about one mile west of where the repair took place on the Colonial Pipeline just recently.”
Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline said in a brief statement Monday evening that it has shut down its main pipeline.
“Colonial’s top priorities are the health and safety of the work crew on site and protection of the public,” the company said.
The company’s statement did not address how Monday’s explosion might affect the availability of gasoline and said more information would be released as it becomes available. However, last month's explosion led to gasoline shortages across the South including the Triad.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory's Press Secretary issued a statement Monday saying, "Governor McCrory and emergency management officials are monitoring the situation closely for any impact on North Carolina," and they "are prepared to take action if necessary."
The explosion happened in a remote area outside the town of Helena, away from residential areas, Helena Mayor Mark told WBRC-TV.
In September, the Colonial Pipeline leaked thousands of gallons of gas southwest of Birmingham near Helena and led to dry fuel pumps in several Southern states — for days, in some cases. There was no immediate indication Thursday whether or not Monday’s explosion will lead to similar shortages.
Colonial Pipeline, based in Alpharetta, Ga., transports more than 100 million gallons of products daily to markets between Houston and New York City, serving more than 50 million people, it says on its website. They include petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel. Authorities have not said which type of fuel was involved in the explosion Monday.