Page last updated at 23:19 GMT, Sunday, 7 February 2010

Connecticut power plant gas explosion kills five people

Aerial view of Kleen Energy plant in Middletown (7 February 2010)
The 620MW Kleen Energy plant was due to come online in the summer

A huge explosion has rocked a power plant in the US state of Connecticut, killing at least five people and injuring 12, the local mayor has said.

Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano said it was caused by a gas explosion.

People living up to 50km (30 miles) away reported that their homes were shaken by the blast at the Kleen Energy plant, being built outside Middletown.

There are reports of people trapped under the remains of a plant building, and a rescue operation is under way.

Search experts and specialist dog teams were at the site combing through the wreckage, the mayor said.

Mayor Sebastian Giuliano said terrorism had been ruled out.

Speaking at a news conference on Sunday evening, Mr Giuliano said that the identities of the dead had not yet been released as some of the victim's families had not yet been informed.

Mr Giuliano said the plant, which was only 95% complete and due to open fully in the summer, was undergoing a series of gas tests when the explosion occurred.

He said between 100 and 200 people worked on the massive site, and were employed by multiple contracting companies.

"How many people were here today - that's the number they can't really nail down. They were purging gas lines all night long, most people were evacuated from the building when they ran the tests," Mr Giuliano said.

The plant is located to the south of the town, on the Connecticut River.

Earlier, deputy fire marshall Al Santostefano said there were some 50 construction workers on the site at the time of the explosion.

It really shook the house and everybody was scared and the kids started to cry
Lynn Townsend

At least 100 firefighters were sent to the scene and it had taken them an hour to contain the fire caused by the blast, he said.

Officials say there is no further danger to the public, and have not evacuated the area. The plant, however, remains cordoned off.

The nearby Middlesex Hospital told the Associated Press it had received 11 victims, while the hospital in the state capital, Hartford, has treated three others.

'Gas line test'

Mr Santostefano said a natural gas pipeline running near the plant had exploded at 1117 (1617 GMT) sending a shockwave that one local resident compared to an earthquake.

A plant worker and residents of Middletown react to the blast

"We heard such a loud explosion and the dog was outside and I heard her bark. And then when we went outside we saw a very big explosion of bright orange flame between the two smoke stacks," Lynn Townsend told the Associated Press.

"It really shook the house and everybody was scared and the kids started to cry because they did not know if the house was going to catch fire."

Fighting through tears, plant worker Paul Venti said: "It's just horrible. All I know is I lost some union brothers. They are some close close personal friends. It's horrible. They were working. They were testing."

"I just heard there was a gas explosion and I'm getting all kinds of phone calls from union brothers. We got some people up there they got little kids that are at home and we lost them."

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