Pipeline explosion sends fire 150 feet into the air

Near the Latvian border in the Pasvalys region of northern Lithuania, a large blast has hit a gas pipeline.

Local media broadcast images of flames illuminating the night sky, but no injuries have been reported.

Inara Murniece, Latvia’s defense minister, wrote on Twitter that sabotage could not be ruled out as the cause of the incident.

Its operator, however, said it was not suspicious of the blast.

As of now, Amber Grid chief executive Nemunas Biknius does not see any malign cause, but the investigation will cover all possible options.

According to Mr Biknius, the 1978-built pipeline had undergone some maintenance recently, and officials will investigate whether that contributed to the blast.

“We will investigate and clarify all the reasons,” Mr Biknius said.

Authorities and specialists investigating the incident have found no evidence of any intentional damage to the pipeline after the gas supply had been cut off and the fire had subsided after four hours.

It was one of two parallel pipelines that exploded, and the other remained undamaged. Amber Grid described the explosion as taking place away from residential areas.

Gintautas Geguzinskas, mayor of Pasvalys district, told LRT he did not know the cause of the explosion, but local residents told him “they saw some work being done near the pipeline where the explosion happened”.

It is reported that flames could be seen rising more than 150 feet into the air. The blast was also visible up to 11 miles away, according to the LRT news outlet.

Valakelie, which has a population of around 700, was evacuated, according to the BNS news agency.

The flames were extinguished around 11:00 PM local time.

The pipeline owned by Amber Grid transports gas into Lithuania’s north and supplies neighboring Latvia with gas.

There is an alternate pipeline currently supplying households in the area.