Bangladesh pipeline fire halts Chittagong gas supply

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DHAKA, Sep 12 (Reuters) An underwater pipeline carrying 250 million cubic feet per day of gas to Bangladesh's port city Chittagong exploded and sparked a huge fire late yesterday, causing millions of dollars in losses to industries, officials said.

Initial estimates put the volume of gas lost at between 15 million and 20 million cubic feet and it might take up to two days to resume supply to the city, as firefighters are still struggling to douse the fire, one official said today.

The outage at the pipeline run by state-owned Bakhrabad Gas Company Limited has forced at least 200 industries to shut down, triggering initial losses of 1.5 billion taka (22 million dollars), the official said.

''All supplies (of gas) in and around the port city have stopped. We are making every effort to restore supplies in one or two days,'' said Mohammad Hasan, a general manager of the company in Chittagong.

There were no reports of casualties, authorities said.

''All the factories which include fertiliser, cement, ready-made garments and a power plant with 420 megawatt capacity have been closed,'' Hasan told Reuters.

Officials said the exact cause of the explosion on the pipeline, which lies deep in the Karnaphuli river, was not immediately known.

The fire did not seriously affect shipping operations as the fire took place about 32 km south of the port.

But authorities have stopped vehicle movements on the Kalurghat Bridge on the Karnaphuli, while nearby ships and boats have been shifted to safe areas.

REUTERS CS KP1306

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