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Deadly Kentucky gas pipeline explosion, fire felt "like an atomic bomb went off"

"Tornado of fire": Woman describes gas explosion
Woman burned in Kentucky gas explosion compares it to "a tornado of fire" 01:45

Junction City, Ky. — A regional gas pipeline ruptured early Thursday in Kentucky, causing a massive explosion that killed one person, hospitalized five others, destroyed railroad tracks and forced the evacuation of dozens of people from a nearby mobile home park, authorities said.

Several structures caught fire in the area of the Indian Camp Trailer Park and were put out, CBS Lexington affiliate WKYT-TV reported

"We opened the backdoor and it was like a tornado of fire going around and around and he said we were trapped," said Jodie Coulter, who lived less than 200 yards from the blast. Coulter suffered third-degree burns on both her arms as she ran from her burning home.

Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Don Gilliam confirmed to CBS News on Thursday morning that everyone in the area was accounted for and three people who were taken to a hospital had been released.

The 30-inch-wide pipeline moves natural gas under high pressure, so the rupture at about 1 a.m. caused a tremendous amount of damage in the immediate area, authorities said. The line has been isolated, said the owner of the pipeline, Enbridge, in a statement.

Firefighters doused the flames for hours, with trucks repeatedly refilling their tanks and returning to the scene.

The explosion was so huge it showed up on radar, according to WKYT meteorologist Chris Bailey:

Gilliam said the flames reached about 300 feet in the air and could be seen throughout the county.

WKYT viewers in several counties reported seeing the fire, including people in the Lexington metropolitan area.

One evacuee told WKYT, "It woke us up and it was just a big roar and fire going all the way up in the sky as far as you could see. Our windows were shaking really bad and you could see the ground just moving and tumbling and rolling. Then we got to feeling the heat from this fire, so we got in our vehicle to get away from it."

Another told the station, "It was like an atomic bomb went off, basically."

The blast also damaged railroad tracks, forcing 31 trains to back up overnight, authorities said.

Gilliam urged people gathering for a multistate yard sale to stay away as tanker trucks worked to put out fires.

Emergency managers said the rupture involved the Texas Eastern Transmission pipeline, which is owned and operated by Enbridge. The pipeline stretches more than 9,000 miles, from the Mexican border in Texas to New York City.

A statement from the company based in Calgary, Canada, said "Enbridge is aware of and is responding to a rupture on the Texas Eastern system in Lincoln County."

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