Video: Blasts raise questions about pipeline safety

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    >>> there you new questions about this country's gas pipelines. after a series of explosions including one in pennsylvania that left five people dead. nbc's tom costello has more tonight.

    >> oh, my god. this is empty yond belief.

    >> reporter: the gas line explosion late thursday night shook the town of hanoverton, ohio, and sent residents fleeing. while no one was injured, a horrific scene in allentown , pa wednesday.

    >> i heard an awful bang and thought my roof fell down.

    >> reporter: the dead included children and the elderly after an 83-year-old underground gas main exploded damaging or destroying 47 homes and businesses. the cause, still under investigation. in san bruno , california, last september, eight people were killed an 30 homes destroyed after a 30-inch gas transmission line exploded. federal investigators found faulty wells on the pipeline installed more than 50 years ago. the ntsb is in charge of the investigation.

    >> and we're monitoring accidents like this one in allentown all over the country, and so we are very concerned about the number of pipeline accidents , and the safety of the infrastructure.

    >> reporter: nearly 2.4 million miles of pipeline transport natural gas from well heads to 70 million homes and businesses nationwide. one-third of the transmission line was laid before 1960 . all gas lines are supposed to be inspected at least once a year, and the american gas association insists that if they're maintained, pipe lines should last 100 years or longer, but the american society of civil engineers which gives the country's infrastructure a d, is concerned.

    >> while we don't know the cause of these current explosions, it is a sad reflection on the overall condition of our country's infrastructure.

    >> reporter: routine maintenance, say the engineers, is critical to keeping any piece of infrastructure running properly. in allentown , the utility company says a routine test came up clean. what triggered the massive explosion?

updated 2/11/2011 7:19:05 PM ET 2011-02-12T00:19:05

A gas pipeline explosion shook residents in eastern Ohio a day after a house explosion in neighboring Pennsylvania took the lives of five residents and destroyed several homes in Allentown.

The flames reportedly could be seen for miles around.

A dispatcher for the Columbiana County Sheriff's Office in Ohio said officials had no reports of injury from the nighttime explosion Thursday and fire near Hanoverton. She said there was no mandatory evacuation but those in the village of about 400 people and surrounding towns who wanted to leave their homes could find shelter at a school and the Salineville Fire Department.

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The explosion occurred about 10:30 p.m. A television station initially reported one house caught fire but Robert Newberry, a spokesman for El Paso Corp., which operates Tennessee Gas Pipeline, said there were no structural fires. One house was damaged, however, the company said. Newberry said only one nearby resident was evacuated.

Story: 5 dead after massive Pa. gas blast

Company spokesman Richard Wheatley said the explosion involved a 36-inch, buried transmission line that carries natural gas through the region. Mechanisms in the section that "failed" automatically shut off the segment and the residual gas burned off, he said.

Wheatley did not immediately respond to a message Friday seeking information about the age and condition of the pipeline.

In 2007, El Paso Corp. agreed to a $15.5 million fine as part of a settlement with the government involving an explosion in 2000 near Carlsbad, N.M., that killed 12 people camping near a 50-year-old pipeline. The settlement included a commitment from El Paso to spend $86 million to modify its 10,000-mile pipeline system.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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