Explosion at major Austrian gas hub, one dead, 18 injured

Steam rises after an explosion occurred at a gas station near Baumgarten an der March, Austria, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. (AP)
Updated 12 December 2017
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Explosion at major Austrian gas hub, one dead, 18 injured

BAUMGARTEN AN DER MARCH, Austria: A large explosion rocked one of Europe’s biggest gas pipeline hubs in Austria on Tuesday, leaving one person dead and 18 injured, emergency services said.
Photos showed a huge tower of orange flame visible for miles around roaring out of the Baumgarten facility some 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of Vienna near the Slovak border.
“An explosion occurred at 8:45 am (0745 GMT), followed by a fire,” police spokesman Edmund Tragschitz told AFP.
He later put the number of people hurt, including one seriously as well as those with minor injuries, at around 60.
But Red Cross spokeswoman Sonja Kellner told the Austria Press Agency that one person had been killed and 18 were injured, one of them seriously who has since been airlifted to the hospital in Vienna.
“I heard a huge explosion and thought at first it was a plane crash,” photographer Thomas Hulik, a resident of a nearby village in Slovakia, told AFP.
“Then I saw an immense ball of flame,” he said.
Armin Teichert, a spokesman for the site’s operator Gas Connect Austria, said that the site had been evacuated and that the facility had been put into “security mode.”
The material damage is “major,” Teichert told AFP.
Police said on social media that people should avoid the area.
Media reports said that more than 200 fire fighters from several brigades in the surrounding area were called in to help, as well as a number of air ambulances.
Lower Austria state police said on Twitter that the situation was “under control.”
“Fire services are currently engaged in putting out the fire following the explosion. Emergency services are treating the wounded,” the statement said.
An AFP journalist nearby said that by late morning the flames had been extinguished but there was still a huge cloud of smoke over the site.
Other photos showed the heat from the blast was so extreme that cars parked at the site partially melted.
Police added that the cause of the incident was a “technical” one and the local authorities had begun an investigation.
The Baumgarten site is Austria’s largest reception point for gas, the end-point for a number of pipelines bringing it in from Russia, Norway and elsewhere.
It receives some 40 billion cubic meters of gas annually and redistributes it elsewhere in Europe including to Germany and northern Italy.
Teichert, the Gas Connect Austria spokesman, said that there could be interruptions in supply to Italy and Croatia, but not to elsewhere.
Russian gas giant Gazprom, which relies on the Baumgarten site to send gas to clients around Europe said in a statement that it was aware of the incident.
“Currently the company is working on redistribution of gas flows and (doing) its best to secure uninterrupted gas supplies to the clients on this transport direction,” Gazprom said.


Lion Air crash victims’ families to rally as hunt for wreckage steps up

Updated 20 min 7 sec ago
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Lion Air crash victims’ families to rally as hunt for wreckage steps up

  • Lion Air is paying for a specialized ship to help lift the main wreckage of flight JT 610 and give investigators a better chance of finding the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) in a search that has lacked sophisticated equipment for the last month
  • The enhanced search will cost $2.8 million for the first 10 days

JAKARTA: Families of some of the 189 people killed in a Lion Air plane crash plan a protest rally in Indonesia on Thursday, while stalled efforts to bring the main wreckage to the surface and find the second black box are set to resume next week.
The Boeing Co. 737 MAX jet crashed into the Java Sea on Oct. 29 shortly after take-off from Jakarta, but the families expressed concern that the remains of 64 passengers have yet to be identified, with just 30 percent of the plane’s body found.
“The relatives hope that all members of our families who died in the accident can be found and their bodies buried in a proper way,” a group that says it represents about 50 families said in a statement.
“We hope the search for the victims will use vessels with sophisticated technology,” it added, ahead of the rally planned for outside the presidential palace in Jakarta.
Lion Air is paying for a specialized ship to help lift the main wreckage of flight JT 610 and give investigators a better chance of finding the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) in a search that has lacked sophisticated equipment for the last month, Reuters reported.
Indonesia’s national transport panel said the vessel was due to arrive on Monday.
The enhanced search will cost $2.8 million for the first 10 days, a source close to the airline said on Thursday, on condition of anonymity, adding that Lion Air is paying because the government does not have the budget.
A spokesman for Lion Air was unable to respond immediately to a request for comment.
“Funds for the CVR search will be borne by Lion Air which has signed a contract for a ship from a Singaporean company,” a finance ministry spokesman told Reuters.
Lion Air’s decision to foot the bill is a rare test of global norms regarding search independence, as such costs are typically paid by governments.
In this case, investigators said they had faced bureaucratic wrangling and funding problems before Lion Air stepped in.
Safety experts say it is unusual for one of the parties to help fund an investigation, required by UN rules to be independent, so as to ensure trust in any safety recommendations made.
There are also broader concerns about resources available for such investigations worldwide, coupled with the risk of agencies being ensnared in legal disputes.
The clock is ticking in the hunt for acoustic pings coming from the L3 Technologies Inc. cockpit voice recorder fitted to the jet. It has a 90-day beacon, the manufacturer’s online brochure shows.
The flight data recorder was retrieved three days after the crash, providing insight into aircraft systems and crew inputs, although the cause has yet to be determined.