Gas well explodes near Charleston, West Virginia

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 11, 2012 2:35 PM

(Reuters) - A natural gas well exploded near Charleston, West Virginia, on Tuesday, setting several houses and buildings on fire, authorities said.

It was not immediately known if there were any injuries or fatalities, said West Virginia State Police Sergeant Chris Zerkle.

The explosion in Sissonville, about 10 miles north of Charleston, was reported at 12:41 p.m. ET, said Michael Slater of the Metro Emergency Operations Center in Charleston.

"Right now we have substantial damage done to several residences and buildings," Zerkle said.

"They were substantially damaged beyond recognition," he said, though a nearby nursing home was not damaged.

Nearby Interstate 77 was closed to traffic in both directions, as was Route 21. "Flames are shooting very high in the area," Slater said.

Interstate 77 will be closed for at least two days while one of the roadway's bridges near the blast site is evaluated for possible damage, Zerkle said.

The largely rural Sissonville, in Kanawha County, is roughly 13 square miles and straddles the interstate.

(Reporting and writing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Philip Barbara)