Fuel pipeline explodes in Colombia, killing 11

AP News
Posted: Dec 23, 2011 8:22 PM
Fuel pipeline explodes in Colombia, killing 11

A fuel pipeline exploded in Colombia on Friday, creating a fireball and blaze that killed 11 people, injured nearly 100 and destroyed more than two dozen homes.

The blast before dawn ripped through the town of Dosquebradas. Authorities said they were investigating what caused the explosion and initially suspected it was set off by thieves who may have tapped the pipeline to steal fuel. The pipeline transported gasoline and diesel.

But national oil company Ecopetrol, which operates the pipeline, later said in a statement the blast was the result of heavy rains that caused movements in the earth, which ruptured the pipeline. Fuel spilled out and was ignited when it came in contact with an unidentified heat source.

Ecopetrol said the explosion and fire killed 11 people and injured another 99.

Town official Oscar Andres Herrera said at least five of the injured were severely burned and the blaze destroyed 25 homes and damaged 47 others.

President Juan Manuel Santos visited the site of the explosion and promised government assistance to the victims and their families.

The explosion occurred in the central province of Risaralda, located about 100 miles (170 kilometers) southwest of the capital of Bogota.

Images on Colombian television showed some of the houses destroyed by the blast and other homes with charred walls. The waters of a nearby stream were flaming with some of the spilled fuel.

Police officer Juan Pablo Munoz, who works elsewhere in the country but was visiting family for Christmas, said he was jolted out of bed by the explosion.

"I smelled a strong odor of gasoline," the 21-year-old said by phone. "I went out into the street. I walked at least 10 steps and I saw that everything around me was destroyed."