A gas explosion in Lithuania was caused by a technical malfunction

WALKING The powerful explosion of a gas pipeline, which caused the evacuation of a village in the north of Lithuania, was most likely caused by a technical malfunction, the head of the country’s gas transport system said on Saturday.

The explosion on Friday night sent flames 50 meters (about 150 feet) into the sky. No casualties have been reported, but about 250 people were evacuated as a precaution from the nearby village of Valakelay. The fire was extinguished by midnight and residents returned to their homes on Saturday as repair work began on the damaged pipeline.

“One of the (possible reasons) is that the explosion occurred due to pipeline welding defects, but the investigation will give all the answers within a few days,” said Niemunas Biknus, head of AB Amber Grid, which manages Lithuania’s gas transportation system. “I don’t think it’s any intentional activity, I think it’s an accident.”

The gas pipeline transports gas from the Baltic port of Klaipeda in Lithuania to neighboring Latvia. A neighboring pipeline was not damaged and continued to supply gas to customers in the area, AB Amber Grid said.

Lithuania completely stopped importing Russian gas in April 2022 in response to the invasion of Ukraine. The Baltic country imports gas from various countries through the Klaipėda liquefied natural gas terminal, built ten years ago. The terminal provides all the natural gas needs of Lithuania and allows deliveries to neighboring countries.

___ Associated Press writer Ludas Dapkus in Vilnius, Lithuania, contributed to this report.

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