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Gas Explosion in Lahntal (County Hessen) Germany

Gas Explosion in Lahntal (CountyHessen) Germany

Spiegel online panorama news of 28th august 07

The facts:

A gas distribution pipeline exploded

100 metre flame catapulted towards village

The pipeline was 60cm in diameter.

The pressure was 100bar

The fire reached a temperature of 1000 degrees Celsius.

An area of 150mtr by 150mtr was burnt, even the soil.

It was compared to the scenario after a volcano erupted.

The fire burnt for 1 hour in spite of a shutter being closed 10 minutes after the explosion.

Specialists say that it was a miracle nobody was killed. They would have expected fatalities.

A powerful gas explosion spread terror and fear amongst the people in a village in Hessen. The gas leaked from a distribution pipeline and then ignited, then the pipeline burst, the ignited gas shooting towards the village.

The flame was 100m long, it burnt fields and forests and even jumped the river Lahn which runs between the village Graeveneck and the pipeline. The enormous heat distorted garage doors, burst windows and melted window blinds. 16 persons suffered shock and hearing loss

The rail tracks alongside the river Lahn where damaged at a length of 100mtrs.
Shortly after the explosion the gas supply could be shut off, the fires in fields and forest were extinguished by fire fighters.
Police reports that initially the cause for the explosion was not known. A new pipeline was going to be built in the vicinity and the connected earthworks might have led to a movement of the ground underneath the pipeline which subsequently burst and exploded.

Online video news reports

Aeriel view of devastated area

Picture 1

Major deployment for the fire service in Hessen: after a gas pipeline explosion the emergency services had to fight a wall of fire. At times the flames blazed to a height of 100 metres. The fire approached a nearby village with raging speed.

Picture 2

Escaping gas caught fire and caused a gas pipeline explosion in Hessen. “Like a flamethrower,” said a police spokesperson, a wall of fire rushed towards the village of Weinbach-Gräveneck near Weilberg an der Lahn. Railway lines, houses and trees in this forest fell victim to the flames.

Picture 3

The burning gas developed enormous heat. The rails on a stretch of railway were twisted as a result. Rail traffic had to be halted temporarily.

Picture 4

The gas explosion occurred at a building site. Experts suppose that a welded seam on the pipe was not tight. The fire also destroyed this generator.

Picture 5

The flames cut a path through the forest and raged towards Weinbach-Gräveneck, a village of 900 inhabitants.

Picture 6

The area around the scene of the explosion was laid waste.

Picture 7

A woman looks out of her house in Weinbach-Gräveneck. The heat of the fire had broken the window panes.

Picture 8

Sixteen people from the village suffered from shock. Fortunately, no one was injured by the fire. “We were very lucky,” said Mayor Thorsten Sprenger.

Picture 9

According to the fire service, the column of fire scorched meadows and woods, and even sprang across the River Lahn, which separates the scene of the explosion from the village of Gräveneck.

Picture 10

This tree is completely burnt – like other trees and fields in an area of about 22,500 square metres.

Picture 11

Experts flew over the area in helicopters to form an impression of the extent of the damage.

Picture 12

Around 150 fire fighters were deployed. They put out burning trees and bushes inside an hour.

Picture 13

The gas escaped from the pipeline at this point and ignited.

Follow up after gas explosion
Frank dialogue between E.ON Ruhrgas/E.ON Gastransport and the residents

Yesterday evening, some 300 residents of Gräveneck accepted the invitation of E.ON Ruhrgas and E.ON Gastransport to come to the village hall to obtain the latest information about the investigations into the cause of the pipeline rupture as well as the ongoing and forthcoming action to be taken to rectify the damage. The Board member responsible for Technical Affairs, Jürgen Lenz, the heads of the two regions, South and North, Heinz Watzka and Gerald Linke, and the project manager responsible, Achim Hilgenstock, were all there to answer the questions of the concerned residents.

Jürgen Lenz first of all welcomed the residents of Gräveneck: “We are well aware that the pipeline damage has put you all under an enormous amount of emotional strain. We greatly regret that the incident caused so much fear among residents and damage to your houses. The E.ON Ruhrgas Board, the managing directors of E.ON Gastransport and not least I myself personally would like to make a formal apology to you and your families.“ He emphasised that E.ON Ruhrgas and E.ON Gastransport would of course continue to provide help at any time and ensure rapid and unbureaucratic settlement of all claims. At the same time he thanked all the staff of the fire services, the German Red Cross, Malteser Hilfsdienst, Deutsche Lebens-Rettungs-Gesellschaft, Technisches Hilfswerk, the police and the emergency doctors, as well as the employees of the Limburg/Weilburg counselling service and last but not least the mayor, Mr Sprenger, for their great cooperation and support. “The cooperation we are getting here is by no means a matter of course,“ Lenz said.

“Three unfortunate circumstances coincided and most likely caused the accident,“ said Heinz Watzka: The rupture of the pipeline was caused by soil sliding down a slope and the enormous pressure put on the pipeline as a result of the weight of this earth. A chart showed how much the pipeline had been displaced by soil movement. The heavy rainfall had caused the river Lahn to burst its banks and had also raised the groundwater level. This led to soil becoming soft and sodden and consequently to the pipe moving. Further contributory factors were the open pipeline trench dug for the new pipeline running parallel to the existing one and the weight of the excavated earth which had been piled onto the slope and caused its instability. Various measures, such as the replacement of the soil and a bored pile wall are in future to secure the slope at this particular point.

Achim Hilgenstock, the contact person for the residents of Gräveneck in the on-site mobile information vehicle who had already answered the questions of many residents, explained the ongoing and forthcoming action to be taken to rectify the damage before Gerald Linke presented in detail the E.ON Ruhrgas safety concept for the construction of pipelines. “Such incidents simply must not happen. Therefore, our primary concern is safety,“ he stressed.
The visitors' many questions which followed the statements of the experts proved that the residents had really looked into the technical details of pipeline construction and above all safety measures since the pipeline rupture. Those who did not wish to ask their questions in front of the crowd attending the meeting were given the opportunity to speak to the representatives of E.ON Ruhrgas and E.ON Gastransport after the event in small groups or one-to-one. Many took up this offer.
Staff will continue to be available on site to answer any questions of concerned residents.

Posted Date: 
19 September 2007 - 4:38pm