The Colonial Pipeline explosion: What we know so far
SHELBY COUNTY, Ala — Massive flames and clouds of thick black smoke rose over central Alabama following a deadly explosion at the Colonial gasoline pipeline Monday. The flames sparked wildfires that burned more than 30 acres and forced people nearby to evacuate. The fire was officially contained at 2 a.m. Tuesday morning.
One person died at the scene, four others remain hospitalized. Another four people were injured but treated and released.
“Our top priorities continue to be ensuring the safety of responders and supporting the personnel and their families who have been impacted by this event,” Colonial said in a statement posted online. “To that end, we are working with our contractor partner and have deployed a family and community support team, which includes grief counselors. Our deepest condolences go out to the family and loved ones of the deceased, and our thoughts and prayers remain with the four individuals who were injured and who continue to receive care at area hospitals.”
Colonial officials say the blast was the result of a worker accidentally hitting the line while doing excavation work for the company. Officials confirm that work was necessary to install a permanent repair needed after the Colonial Pipeline leak in September on the same line. The leak prompted dry pumps and higher prices in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Colonial Pipeline provides gasoline for more than 50 million people in areas stretching from the gulf coast to New England. It supplies the east coast with 40 percent of its fuel.
Tuesday we learned an estimated four thousand barrels of gasoline burned in the fire. Colonial hopes to make repairs in the next day or two. Right now one of the two lines is back open. At one point the flames got so hot, the FAA made it a no-fly zone.
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Colonial Pipeline officials explained that there are two pipelines that run side-by-side. One carries diesel and air plane fuel, the other carries gasoline for cars. Crews were able to restore the diesel line, but the gasoline line is still disrupted. Officials say they hope to have the gas line restored by this weekend.
“It’s one thing to spill product, it’s another thing to hear that somebody got hurt as a result of something that they were doing on the pipeline”, said a Colonial representative.
Governor Robert Bentley declared a State of Emergency Tuesday for the entire state following the pipeline explosion. This does not mean there is a gas line shortage. Governor Bentley only declared the emergency because he needed to grant a waiver that lifts the number of hours a driver can transport gasoline. Officials say you can live your life as normal, there’s no need to panic. The rising gas prices are expected to be short lived.
The State of Emergency is in effect until December 1, but could be terminated sooner.