KNIFLEY, Ky. (AP) — An underground transmission pipeline carrying natural gas exploded early Thursday in southern Kentucky, sending two people to the hospital, destroying two homes and alarming residents who saw flames from miles away.
The explosion happened about 2 a.m. in a hillside about 100 feet off the road and left a crater 60 feet wide, Adair County Emergency Management Director Greg Thomas said.
People said they "saw the fire in the sky," Thomas said.
Both of the injured people were treated and released, Kentucky Emergency Management spokesman Buddy Rogers said. The two were in the same home when they were hurt, though only one suffered burns, Thomas said.
A third home was damaged along with four or five vehicles.
About 20 homes within a few miles of the blast site were evacuated, Thomas said. The flames were extinguished by late morning, and residents would be allowed back into their homes in the afternoon, he said.
The explosion occurred in the community of Knifley, about 100 miles south of Louisville near the Green River Lake Wildlife Management Area.
The 30-inch pipeline, which was about 20 feet underground, is owned by Columbia Gulf Transmission. The company said in a news release that gas flow to the damaged pipeline was stopped and trained crews have been sent to work with emergency responders to secure the scene.
"We don't yet know the cause but will be working with the appropriate authorities to conduct a thorough and complete investigation," the release said.
The company's operators detected a drop in pressure in the pipeline, known as Line 200, at 2:05 a.m., the company said.
"We activated our emergency response procedures and took steps to isolate the damaged portion of the pipeline," the release said.
Officials allowed the remaining gas in the pipeline to burn out.
The American Red Cross was on the scene to provide assistance to those in need.
The pipeline company is part of the Houston-based Columbia Pipeline Group, which has about 1,400 miles of pipelines operating in Kentucky.
In January 2012, a pipeline owned by Columbia Gulf ruptured in Estill County, sending flames into the air and evacuating about 30 families. No one was injured.