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Natural Gas Explosion In Kanawha County West Virginia

SISSONVILLE (AP) - At least five homes went up in flames Tuesday afternoon and a badly burned section of Interstate 77 in West Virginia was closed after a natural gas line exploded in an hour-long inferno.

Read more on this story of a pipeline explosion on an interstate.

Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper says a powerful explosion has rocked an area of Kanawha County near Sissonville this afternoon.  The blast shook the area around 12:40 and sent flames high into the area and across Interstate 77.

"The flames are shooting 50, 75 to 100 feet.  There's fire everywhere," said Carper reporting from the scene on 58-WCHS. "Gas company is on the scene working with emergency officials to get the gas shut off, then we'll assess if we have injuries or casualties.  At this time it's a fairly chaotic scene."

Carper confirms several homes and other structures in the area have been engulfed by the intense heat and fire this afternoon.

"Several structures are involved.  The fire is so hot it's like a blevy. It's caused houses to melt and burn way far away," he said. "Many structures are on fire in a large fire area stretching hundreds and hundreds of feet."

Carper says for the moment the fire is not spreading, but about all firemen can do is monitor the flames until the gas company can shut down the powerful line fueling the fire.  

Interstate 77 in Kanawha County is closed until further notice. The explosion was first reported to Kanawha County Metro 911 at 12:42 Tuesday on Teresa Lane area. The flames can be clearly seen from the interstate near the Tuppers Creek exit.

Dozens of emergency crews have been dispatched to the area.