Shelby County, Ala.—One worker was killed and several more were injured when an Alabama pipeline ruptured sometime during the evening of Monday, October 31.
According to Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, the failing pipeline caused an explosion that sent flames high above the surrounding tree line.
One eye witness, who said he helped an injured worker remove gas from himself before calling an ambulance, said the central Alabama explosion resembled an airplane crash and resulted in towering flames that extended some 300 feet into the air.
The epicenter was approximately one mile west of a leak that occurred back in September, releasing thousands of gallons of gasoline and causing shortages and price hikes throughout the entire Southeast.
The failed pipeline belongs to the same company behind the previous leak—the Colonial Pipeline Company of Alpharetta, Georgia—and marks the sixth leak its operations have endured this year in Alabama alone.
Officials are not certain wether the explosion emanated from the same pipeline that failed in September, and workers have not yet been able to get close enough to the accident site to determine if the initial explosion has damaged any other nearby pipelines.
“Three miles around the area of the fire has been evacuated,” Bentley said in a video which his office posted to Vimeo and later tweeted out through his official Twitter account. “We have state resources in place through our forestry association, and we have people there to contain the fire.”
The state of Alabama has been suffering from a severe drought. According to the governor, there have been over one thousand fires recorded since the beginning of October.
“Our resources have been stretched thin,” Bentley said. “But we will have enough resources in place, we will put enough resources in place, to protect the people in that area.”
Coleen Vansant with the Alabama Forestry Commission says that the explosion has sparked several wildfires, one around 10 acres in size and another near 7 acres.
According to a brief statement issued by the Colonial Pipeline Company, the main pipeline in the area has been shut down for the time being.
— Gov. Robert Bentley (@GovernorBentley) November 1, 2016
It comes at a time when pipelines all over the country are being hotly contested by environmentalists.
— ABC 33/40 News (@abc3340) October 31, 2016
A major protest is taking place near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation because of a proposed pipeline that the Dakota Sioux say is threatening the quality of drinking water drawn from the Missouri River and decimating many of their important cultural heritage sites.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is being maintained and constructed by a company called Energy Transfer which, according to its website, operates three major crude oil pipelines, including approximately 500 miles of pipeline that run through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.
Energy Transfer claims that the $3.7 billion project will lessen U.S. dependance on foreign oil and create thousands of jobs.