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Excavation causes gas inferno

A spectacular gas fire, caused by an excavator hitting a gas pipeline near the Bund, took an hour to control and resulted in traffic chaos in yesterday morning's rush hours.

Workers from Shanghai Shinan Water Co Ltd were laying pipes at the intersection of Zhongshan Road S. and Fuxing Road E. at 7:40am when an excavator's drill accidentally struck a pipe of the Dazhong Gas Co Ltd.

The escaping gas was quickly ignited by sparks and the flames reached about 30 meters high.

The fire brigade arrived at the scene shortly after but took an hour to put out the fire.

"It is a special case that the fire was caused by leaking gas. We had to wait until the valve was closed and the remaining gas in the pipe had burned out, or it will cause further damage," said Zhou Meiliang, from the Shanghai Fire Control Bureau.

The excavator was destroyed in the fire and co-workers said the operator jumped from the 2-meter-high cabin and fled the scene.

Investigators said that the fire was caused by human error but would not say if they are seeking the operator.

No one was reported hurt but the accident blocked Zhongshan Road S. until 9:50 am and cut gas to the area for three hours.

The workers should know the location of gas pipes before they start digging, said a Dazhong Gas Co manager who refused to identify himself.

"The workers can only work in the morning and night in hot weather. To finish it on time, they have to rush the work and thus caused the fire by negligence," the manager said.


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