08 February 2010

Huge gas explosion at U.S. power plant

An aerial view of the Kleen Energy Systems plant, where an explosion took place earlier today, is seen February 7, 2010 in Middletown, Connecticut. At least five were killed and several more injured after the explosion at the gas power plant which is still under construction. (Photo by Douglas Healey/Getty Images North America)

08th February 2010 - A huge explosion at a U.S. power plant has claimed the lives of at least five workers and injured a dozen more.

The explosion, at 11.15am local time yesterday, sent a ball of fire 40-feet into the air and could be heard and felt for miles around.

Deputy Fire Marshal Al Santostefano last night said that no one was known to be missing amid the rubble from the Kleen Energy Systems plant in Middletown, Connecticut.

Devastation: At least five people have been killed after a gas explosion at an energy plant in Connecticut

Emergency workers still spent the night going searching the debris in case there were any more victims.

The cause of the gas explosion was unknown and investigators are to begin combing the site this morning.

The blast left huge pieces of metal that once encased the plant peeling off its sides. A large swathe of the structure was blackened and surrounded by debris, but the building, its roof and its two smokestacks were still standing.

Rescue crews had set up several tents alongside the site, which is a few miles from Wesleyan University on a wooded and hilly 137-acre parcel of land overlooking the Connecticut River.

Deafening: The explosion could be heard and felt for miles around

Mayor Sebastian Giuliano heard the blast while leaving church.

'It felt almost like a sonic boom,' he said.

Deputy Santostefano said 50 to 60 people were in the area at the time of the explosion, and multiple contractors were working on the project, making it difficult to quickly account for everyone.

The 620-megawatt plant, which was almost complete, is being built to produce energy primarily using natural gas.

Workers for the construction company, O&G Industries, were purging the gas line when the explosion occurred.

Wreckage: The blast at the Kleen Energy plant in Middletown sent a ball of fire 40-feet into the air

Officials had not released the conditions of the other injured people, although they said at least a dozen people had injuries ranging from minor to very serious.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security last night said there was no indication that terrorism was to blame for the blast.

Kleen Energy Systems LLC began construction on the plant in February 2008. It had signed a capacity deal with Connecticut Light and Power for the electricity produced by the plant, which was scheduled to be completed by mid-2010.

Energy Investors Funds, a private equity fund that indirectly owns a majority share in the power plant, said it is fully cooperating with authorities investigating the explosion. In a written statement, the company offered sympathy and concern and said it would release more information on the explosion as it becomes available.

Aftermath: The blast left huge pieces of metal that once encased the plant peeling off its sides

Daniel Horowitz, a spokesman with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, said the agency is mobilising an investigation team from Colorado and hopes to have the workers on the scene later today.

Plants powered by natural gas are taking on a much larger role in generating electricity for the US. Gas emits about half the greenhouse gases of coal-fired plants and new technology has allowed natural gas companies to begin to unlock gas supplies that could total more than 100 years at current usage levels.

Natural gas is used to make about a fifth of U.S. electricity.

Aerial view of the plant: The cause of the gas explosion was unknown and investigators are to begin combing the site this morning

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