(Adds comments from PECO, PHMSA)
Jan 21 (Reuters) - An explosion of an Enbridge Inc natural gas pipeline in Ohio on Monday created a fireball of flame and damaged homes, prompting the evacuation of nearby residents.
The explosion occurred on Enbridge’s Texas Eastern pipeline system and appeared to have destroyed two homes, said Chasity Schmelzenbach, emergency management director for Noble County, Ohio.
“We got reports flames were shooting (up) 80 feet to 200 feet (25-60 meters),” Schmelzenbach said. “You could see it upwards of 10-15 miles (16-24 km) away. Lots of people thought it was in their backyard because it does appear large.”
Enbridge later said that two people were injured and two structures damaged in the incident, which occurred at 10:40 a.m. EST (1540 GMT). It said the fire had been contained, but that residents near the incident had been evacuated.
The Calgary-based company said it had “immediately started to shut in and isolate that section of pipeline” and was cooperating with authorities in its response.
The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has been notified about the explosion and has dispatched an investigator to the scene, an agency spokesman said.
Enbridge’s Texas Eastern pipeline carries natural gas from the U.S. Gulf Coast and Texas to high-demand markets in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, according to Enbridge’s website.
It was not immediately clear if the shut-in would impact customers in some of the most densely populated areas in the United States during a particularly severe cold snap.
A spokesman for Pennsylvania’s major power supplier, PECO, said late on Monday it was not experiencing any disruptions related to the explosion.
A fire on an Enbridge gas pipeline in northern British Columbia late last year led to supply disruptions throughout the Pacific Coast, forcing a number of Washington state refineries to temporarily shut or curb operations. (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Julie Gordon in Vancouver, Jarrett Renshaw in New York Editing by Leslie Adler and Sandra Maler)