Early Thursday morning at 1:00 am, a natural gas line exploded in Adair County, Kentucky, catching three homes on fire, and sending two people to the hospital.
The explosion was so intense it left a crater in the ground that was at least 60 feet deep, and 50 feet wide, according to Emergency Management Agency (EMA) director Greg Thomas. Three homes caught fire and two of them burned to the ground, along with barns and cars, Thomas said.
Around 20 homes were evacuated in the wee-hours on Thursday, and officials declared a state of emergency for Adair County. All residents whose homes were not damaged or destroyed by the explosion were allowed to return to their homes later on Thursday, Thomas said.
One of the injured had burns and had to be hospitalized, and another was brought to the hospital for evaluation. In addition to the two homes that were destroyed, Thomas said a third home was damaged by fire along with four or five vehicles.
Jason Rector was at the scene of the explosion this morning with a group of American Red Cross volunteers, who were delivering food and support to emergency workers and victims whose houses were burned or damaged.
Area fire departments, police, and emergency responders also were lending support.
"We didn't get up close to the crater because there were still flames shooting several feet in the air," Rector said. "They had got the pipeline shut off in both directions, but the excess gas remaining in the pipe was still burning when I left."
The pipeline, which runs about 20 feet underground, is owned and operated by Columbia Gulf Transmission and runs from the Gulf of Mexico to New York.
A statement from the company said it is not known yet what caused the explosion. The gas flow had been shut off to the damaged line, and trained crews were working to ensure the safety of the local residents.
"We don't yet know the cause but will be working with the appropriate authorities to conduct a thorough and complete investigation," the statement said.
"The gas company is taking charge of the cleanup and determination of what happened," Thomas said. "They will have engineers to send the pipes off to determine what happened. It's a process that's going to be happening for a while."
The roadways around the site have also since reopened and Thomas expects the state of emergency will be lifted on Friday morning.
Officials report that firefighters have the fire under control and are letting it burn itself out.
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