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updated: 2/13/2014 9:59 AM

Ky. gas line blast injures 2, destroys homes

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Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Ky. -- An underground gas line in rural southern Kentucky exploded early Thursday, sending two people to the hospital and destroying two homes, a county official said.

The explosion happened around 1 a.m. Thursday in a hillside about 100 feet off the road and left a crater 60 feet around, Adair County Emergency Management Director Greg Thomas said.

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Both of the injured people were treated and released, Kentucky Emergency Management spokesman Buddy Rogers said.

In addition to the two homes that were destroyed, Thomas said a third home was damaged by fire along with four or five vehicles. Rogers said two barns were also damaged.

About 20 homes within a few miles of the blast site have been evacuated, Thomas said. The explosion occurred in the community of Knifley, which is about 100 miles south of Louisville.

Thomas said firefighters have the fire under control and are letting it burn itself out. The pipeline, which was about 20 feet underground, is owned by Columbia Gulf Transmission, he said.

Columbia Gulf said in a statement that gas flow to the damaged pipeline has been stopped and trained crews have been sent to the scene to work with emergency responders to secure the scene and help ensure the safety of people in the surrounding area.

"We don't yet know the cause but will be working with the appropriate authorities to conduct a thorough and complete investigation," the statement said.

Rogers said officials planned a controlled release of the remaining gas in the transmission line.

He said Highway 551 has been closed due to debris. It was unclear when it would reopen.

The American Red Cross was on the scene to provide assistance to those in need.

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