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Gas Line Explosion Rocks Helena, Alabama

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Associated Press Associated Press
HELENA, Ala. -

One person was killed and several workers injured Monday when an explosion occurred along the Colonial Pipeline in rural Alabama, not far where it burst last month, authorities said.

Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline said in a statement Monday night that one person died at the scene and five others were transported to Birmingham-area hospitals.

The company said it shut down its two mainlines, which traverse Shelby County, after the blast and the lines were still shut Monday night.

The explosion sent flames soaring over the forest about a mile west of where the pipeline burst in September, Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement. That rupture led to gasoline shortages across the South.

People within 3 miles of the blast site were being evacuated, the governor said.

“We’ll just hope and pray for the best,” the governor added.

Video from area media shows a huge plume of flame and smoke rising in a wooded area in Shelby County southwest of Birmingham.

Earlier, Helena police confirmed on Twitter that there was an explosion, and said no residents are in danger.

The explosion took place near 334 Highway 13, CBS affiliate WIAT reported.

Bentley had said earlier that seven workers were injured.

“It appears to have been an accident, and they’re allowing fuel to burn,” Bentley told WBRC-TV in a live interview Monday evening. . “It’s about one mile west of where the repair took place on the Colonial Pipeline just recently.”

In September, the pipeline leaked 252,000 to 336,000 gallons of gasoline and led to dry fuel pumps and price spikes in several Southern states -- for days, in some cases. There was no immediate indication Thursday whether or not Monday’s explosion near Helena southwest of Birmingham would lead to similar shortages.

Plagued by a severe drought after weeks without rain, the section of the state where the explosion happened has been scarred by multiple wildfires in recent weeks, and crews worked to keep the blaze from spreading across the landscape.

Coleen Vansant, a spokeswoman with the Alabama Forestry Commission, said crews built a 75-foot-long earthen dam to contain burning fuel, which will be allowed to burn itself out. The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Monday night that the blaze had been contained but it was unclear how long the fire may take to burn out.

Colonial Pipeline said in a brief statement Monday evening that it has shut down its main pipeline.

“Colonial’s top priorities are the health and safety of the work crew on site and protection of the public,” the company said.

The company’s statement did not address how Monday’s explosion might affect the availability of gasoline, and said more information would be released as it becomes available.

Several fire departments were sending crews to assist. Helena police say they’re assisting Shelby County authorities with the blaze.

The explosion happened in a remote area outside the town of Helena, away from residential areas, Helena Mayor Mark told WBRC-TV.

Colonial Pipeline, based in Alpharetta, Georgia, transports more than 100 million gallons of products daily to markets between Houston and New York City, serving more than 50 million people, it says on its website. They include petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel. Authorities have not said which type of fuel was involved in the explosion Monday.

© 2016 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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