Austria gas plant burns after deadly explosion

Explosion at Baumgarten, 12 Dec 17 Image copyright AFP
Image caption A huge fire ensued - police now say a technical fault was to blame

A big blast has rocked a major natural gas hub in Austria, killing one person and injuring at least 18, police say.

A fire followed the blast which happened around 08:45 (07:45 GMT) at the Baumgarten site, just east of the capital Vienna, near the Slovak border.

On Twitter, Austrian police said the situation was under control and a technical fault had caused the blast.

The flow of Russian gas to Europe has dropped, triggering price hikes. Italy declared a state of emergency.

Baumgarten is a key hub for imported Russian gas, which is sent on to a number of European countries. The facility receives about 40bn cubic metres of gas per year.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The blaze could be seen from a distance
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The fire has now been brought under control, officials say
Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The blaze destroyed a number of cars parked nearby

"The installation has been brought under control and operations have been suspended there," said Armin Teichert, spokesman for the operator, Austria's Gas Connect service.

Police have cordoned off the area. Some victims suffering burns have been airlifted out by helicopter, Austrian ORF news reports.

One unconfirmed report spoke of 60 hurt.

"I heard a huge explosion and thought at first it was a plane crash," photographer Thomas Hulik, who lives in a nearby village in Slovakia, told AFP news agency. "Then I saw an immense ball of flame."

Gas Connect said the incident should have no effect on gas deliveries to Austria but those to Italy and Croatia might be reduced.

Meanwhile, Russia's Gazprom Export company said it was working to redirect gas flows.

It said it was "doing everything possible to secure uninterrupted gas supplies" to customers in the region.

Ukraine'S Ukrtransgaz firm said that "due to the emergency situation in the EU there will be a temporary fall in the volume of natural gas transit across Ukraine in the Slovak direction".

Ukraine is a major transporter of Russian gas into the EU.

Spot prices rose sharply across Europe after the incident.

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