Image: Fire from explosion
Michael Schumacher  /  Amarillo Globe News via AP
Flames rise above Bushland, Texas, early Thursday. The roaring sound of the leaking gas could be heard and seen 20 miles away.
updated 11/5/2009 1:52:30 PM ET 2009-11-05T18:52:30

A natural gas pipeline exploded in the Texas Panhandle on Thursday, shaking homes, melting window blinds and shooting flames hundreds of feet into the air.

Three people were injured in the blast, which occurred at 1 a.m. near Amarillo, and they were taken to an area hospital with burns, said Potter County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Roger Short.

"My home is about 20 miles something away and I could see the flames from my home," Short said. "You could hear the roar of the flames 20 miles away."

Firefighters were able to contain most of the flames by 5:30 a.m. though small grass fires continued to burn, Short said.

Nearby residents were evacuated, and the pipeline's gas was shut off, Short said. One house was destroyed, and several others were damaged in Bushland, about 15 miles west of Amarillo, he said.

"The heat onto the homes, it did a lot of damage. You could see blinds inside the homes that were melted ... it was very hot," Short said.

Bushland Middle School principal, Mark Reasor, said about 60 people who were evacuated took shelter at the school for a few hours before returning home before dawn. Gas service had been cut off to nearby homes and Bushland's schools, officials said.

Messages left with the hospital for conditions of those injured were not immediately returned Thursday. A team of investigators was heading to the pipeline, said Robert Newberry, a spokesman for El Paso Natural Gas.

El Paso Natural Gas is a subsidiary of Houston-based El Paso Corp.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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