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Gas Pipeline Blast In Kentucky Burns Houses, Leaves Huge Crater

<p>Huge rocks were flung into the air after the explosion in Adair County.</p>

A gas pipeline explosion in Kentucky shook the ground and catapulted rocks high into the air early Thursday, officials said.

The blast and ensuing fire in Adair County destroyed three houses, two barns and several cars, Kentucky Emergency Management director Greg Thomas said.

One person suffered burns and was taken to hospital.

The pipeline was buried 20 feet into a mountainside near the rural community of Knifley. The explosion left a deep crater and flung “huge rocks” into the air, according to Thomas speaking from the scene.

Some of these boulders were found blocking a road 150 yards away from the pipeline in what Thomas said was evidence of the blast’s ferocity.

Michael Clinkscales, a student at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky., said he saw the fire from his campus 20 miles away and posted a photograph on Twitter.

"Calls came in from people saying there was an explosion and the ground was rocking," Thomas said. "People did not know what was going on."

The explosion happened just after 1 a.m. locally and was still burning more than three hours later.

Some 200 firefighters and other emergency service personnel from surrounding counties were at the scene at 4 a.m. and had managed to contain the fire.

The operators of the pipeline, Columbia Gulf Transmission, had shut off the gas but the fire would continue to burn until all the gas left in the isolated section had burned out, Thomas said.

The company, which is part of NiSource's Columbia Pipeline Group, said in a statement released at 6:30 a.m. ET that it did not yet know the cause of the explosion. It said its emergency response teams were working with local authorities to "to assure the safety and security of the area where the rupture occurred."