Alexa

Crews search ash-covered homes after blast kills 4

 A ball of flames and smoke are seen in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Several homes were destroyed as a massive fire roared through a mo...
 A massive fire roars through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters from San Bruno and surroun...
 A massive fire is roars through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters from San Bruno and surr...
 A massive fire is roars through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters from San Bruno and surr...
 Map shows massive fire from possible gas line explosion in San Bruno, Calif.
 A woman is treated by firemen after an explosion in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Several homes were destroyed as a massive fire roared...
 A firefighter shoots water from his firehose at a massive fire, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010 in a neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif. (AP Photo/George Nikit...
 Two cars burned after a massive fire  roared through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters fr...
 A home for sale sign is shown in front of home that was destroyed after a massive fire that roared through a mostly residential neighborhood in San B...
 A helicopter drops water on a massive fire through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters from...
 Evacuees look for donated clothing at a Red Cross shelter in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010 following a massive fire in their neighborhood...
 An injured evacuee who wished not to be identified, looks for donated clothing as she walks around a Red Cross shelter in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, ...
 Millbrae, Calif., fire chief Dennis Haage, left, talks with San Bruno, Calif., residents Toni Vaccari, right, and her daughter, Debbie Shea, about re...
 San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane talks about the aftermath of a massive gas explosion during a news conference at a shopping center, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010,...
 A volunteer, left, helps an evacuees who wished not to be identified, at a Red Cross shelter in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010 after she w...
 San Bruno, Calif., resident Lester Vaccari, bottom, listens to find out when he can return to his home following a massive gas explosion, during a ne...
 California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, at podium, stands with other public officials and talks about the aftermath of a massive gas explosion during a n...
 Pacific Gas and Electric Company President Chris Johns talks about the massive gas explosion during a news conference, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010, in San...
 Pacific Gas and Electric Company President Chris Johns, right, answers questions following a massive gas explosion as California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldon...
 An injured evacuee who wished not to be identified, touches her head as she walks around a Red Cross shelter in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, ...
 Firefighters continue to battle hot spots and search for missing people in a neighborhood following a massive gas line explosion in San Bruno, Calif....
 Firefighters continue to battle hot spots in a neighborhood following a massive gas line explosion in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Fire...
 Firemen work on the remains of a home damaged by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Fi...
 A rescue worker walks with a search dog and goes house to house looking for missing people in a neighborhood damaged by a gas line explosion in San B...
 Firefighters and officials with dogs look over damage caused by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sep...
 Aerial view of damage caused by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010.   Fire crews tried ...
 Aerial view of damage caused by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Fire crews tried to...
 Firemen work on the remains of a home damaged by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010.  F...
 Firemen work amongst the ruins of homes burned by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. F...
 People watch from a hilltop as a neighborhood below continues to smolder after a gas line explosion in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Fir...
 Firemen work on the remains of a home damaged by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010.   ...
 Workers and officials look over a crater caused by a massive explosion in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2...
 Fire crews work on the remains of homes damaged by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. ...
 Fire crews work on the remains of homes damaged by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. ...

Large Explosion

A ball of flames and smoke are seen in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Several homes were destroyed as a massive fire roared through a mo...

Large Explosion

A massive fire roars through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters from San Bruno and surroun...

APTOPIX Large Explosion

A massive fire is roars through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters from San Bruno and surr...

APTOPIX Large Explosion

A massive fire is roars through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters from San Bruno and surr...

CALIF EXPLOSION

Map shows massive fire from possible gas line explosion in San Bruno, Calif.

Large Explosion

A woman is treated by firemen after an explosion in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Several homes were destroyed as a massive fire roared...

Large Explosion

A firefighter shoots water from his firehose at a massive fire, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010 in a neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif. (AP Photo/George Nikit...

Large Explosion

Two cars burned after a massive fire roared through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters fr...

Large Explosion

A home for sale sign is shown in front of home that was destroyed after a massive fire that roared through a mostly residential neighborhood in San B...

APTOPIX Large Explosion

A helicopter drops water on a massive fire through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters from...

Large Explosion

Evacuees look for donated clothing at a Red Cross shelter in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010 following a massive fire in their neighborhood...

Large Explosion

An injured evacuee who wished not to be identified, looks for donated clothing as she walks around a Red Cross shelter in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, ...

Large Explosion

Millbrae, Calif., fire chief Dennis Haage, left, talks with San Bruno, Calif., residents Toni Vaccari, right, and her daughter, Debbie Shea, about re...

Large Explosion

San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane talks about the aftermath of a massive gas explosion during a news conference at a shopping center, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010,...

Large Explosion

A volunteer, left, helps an evacuees who wished not to be identified, at a Red Cross shelter in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010 after she w...

Large Explosion

San Bruno, Calif., resident Lester Vaccari, bottom, listens to find out when he can return to his home following a massive gas explosion, during a ne...

Large Explosion

California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, at podium, stands with other public officials and talks about the aftermath of a massive gas explosion during a n...

Large Explosion

Pacific Gas and Electric Company President Chris Johns talks about the massive gas explosion during a news conference, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010, in San...

Large Explosion

Pacific Gas and Electric Company President Chris Johns, right, answers questions following a massive gas explosion as California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldon...

Large Explosion

An injured evacuee who wished not to be identified, touches her head as she walks around a Red Cross shelter in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, ...

Large Explosion

Firefighters continue to battle hot spots and search for missing people in a neighborhood following a massive gas line explosion in San Bruno, Calif....

APTOPIX Large Explosion

Firefighters continue to battle hot spots in a neighborhood following a massive gas line explosion in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Fire...

Large Explosion

Firemen work on the remains of a home damaged by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Fi...

Large Explosion

A rescue worker walks with a search dog and goes house to house looking for missing people in a neighborhood damaged by a gas line explosion in San B...

Large Explosion

Firefighters and officials with dogs look over damage caused by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sep...

Large Explosion

Aerial view of damage caused by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Fire crews tried ...

Large Explosion

Aerial view of damage caused by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Fire crews tried to...

APTOPIX Large Explosion

Firemen work on the remains of a home damaged by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. F...

Large Explosion

Firemen work amongst the ruins of homes burned by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. F...

Large Explosion

People watch from a hilltop as a neighborhood below continues to smolder after a gas line explosion in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Fir...

APTOPIX Large Explosion

Firemen work on the remains of a home damaged by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. ...

APTOPIX Large Explosion

Workers and officials look over a crater caused by a massive explosion in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2...

APTOPIX Large Explosion

Fire crews work on the remains of homes damaged by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. ...

APTOPIX Large Explosion

Fire crews work on the remains of homes damaged by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. ...

All that was left of some houses Friday were chimneys, rising from still smoldering ruins. Burned-out cars sat along ash-covered streets. And a rescue worker with a dog searched door to door for missing people.
The day after a gas line ruptured and a towering fireball roared through a suburban San Francisco neighborhood, killing four people, officials were trying to determine what led to a blast that raised questions about the safety of similar lines that crisscross towns across America.
"It was pretty devastating," Fire Chief Dennis Haag said. "It looks like a moonscape in some areas."
At least 50 people were hurt, with seven suffering critical injuries in the explosion Thursday evening that left a giant crater and laid waste to dozens of 1960s-era homes in the hills overlooking San Francisco Bay.
The utility that operates the 30-inch (76-centimeter) diameter line said it was trying to find out what caused the steel gas pipe to rupture and ignite. Federal pipeline safety inspectors were also on the scene.
Some residents said they smelled gas in the neighborhood over the past several weeks. The utility said it was checking its records for the complaints, but added that none of its crews were at work on the line Thursday.
Compared to the tens of thousands of miles of gas pipelines across America, accidents are relatively rare.
In 2009, there were 163 significant accidents involving U.S. natural gas pipelines, killing 10 people and injuring 59.
Over the past two decades, federal officials tallied 2,840 significant gas pipeline accidents nationwide _ including 992 in which someone was killed or required hospitalization, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
Those accidents killed 323 people and injured 1,372.
Experts say the nation's 296,000 miles (476,344 kilometers) of onshore natural-gas lines routinely suffer breakdowns and failures.
More than 60 percent of the lines are 40 years old or older and almost half were installed in the 1950s and 1960s, according to a recent analysis by the Pipeline Safety Trust, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Bellingham, Washington.
Most of the older pipelines lack anticorrosion coatings that are prevalent in the industry today, said Carl Reimer, executive director of the trust, which was set up following a 1999 explosion that killed three people in Bellingham, Washington.
"The industry always says that if you take care of pipelines, they'll last forever," Reimer said. "But what we see over and over again is companies are not doing that and corrosion and other factors are causing failures."
State Assemblyman Jerry Hill, who represents San Bruno and surrounding cities, said he has heard multiple reports from constituents who had alerted PG&E of gas odors in the neighborhood before the disaster.
PG&E President Chris Johns said the company has heard the reports of a gas odor in the area before the blast.
"Right now, we haven't got confirmation about that, but we have records that we are going back right this minute to try to confirm what exactly those phone calls look like and when they occurred, and we will report back as soon as we know something," he said.
The damaged section of pipe was isolated and gas flow to the area was stopped. Haag said PG&E crews were still not able to access the site of the ruptured line Friday because it was covered with water.
This is not the first time a deadly explosion occurred on a PG&E gas line. The utility has had 19 significant pipeline incidents since 2002, but there was only one fatality, according to records provided by the trust.
___
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Barbassa, Sudhin Thanawala, Terence Chea and video journalist Haven Daley in San Bruno; Dearen, Marcus Wohlsen and John S. Marshall in San Francisco; Garance Burke in Fresno, California; Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana; and Joan Lowy in Washington.


Updated : 2020-12-04 07:49 GMT+08:00