VIENNA – At least one person was killed and 18 were injured early on Tuesday in an explosion at a natural gas plant in eastern Austria, according to police sources, who said that the ensuing fire had been brought under control.
The gas plant, belonging to the Austrian international oil and gas company OMV, erupted in flames at around 9 am local time in the municipality of Baumgarten an der March – located 40 kilometers (25 miles) to the east of Vienna – following a blast so strong it partially disrupted the gas supply to neighboring Slovakia.
“Gas station exploded in Baumgarten an der March, Gänserndorf District. Avoid area and follow instructions of emergency services!” the regional police for Lower Austria said on its official Twitter account.
The same account later tweeted that the situation was under control, although firefighters were still working to extinguish the fire while emergency services provided first aid to those injured and transported several of them to nearby hospitals via helicopter.
The regional police added that the cause of the explosion had been a technical failure.
Slovakian gas company Eurstream said in a statement that, as a consequence, the flow of gas into the country from Austria had been temporarily limited until further notice.
It added that the accident would have “no effect on Slovakian consumers,” since other pipelines were functioning correctly, in addition to the Russian gas supply entering through the town of Velke Kapusany, on the border with Ukraine.
Franz Resperger, a spokesman for the local fire department, told public broadcaster ORF that the strong blast, which occurred in an underground pipeline, also caused six surrounding buildings to catch fire.
He explained that, due to the high heat that resulted from the explosion, several cars in a nearby parking lot had been partially melted.
“The large plumes of black smoke can be seen from far away,” Resperger added.
The smoke could also be appreciated in images captured by an epa photographer at the site.