Chittagong gas supply partially restored after fire

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DHAKA, Sep 12 (Reuters) Work began today to restore gas supply to Chittagong that was cut after an underwater pipeline in Bangladesh exploded and sparked a huge fire, causing millions of dollars in losses to industries, officials said.

The fire at the pipeline carrying 250 million cubic feet per day of gas to the port city, was now under control, and limited supply of gas has been resumed to industrial units in nearby areas, officials said.

Initial estimates put the volume of gas lost at between 15 million and 20 million cubic feet and and an official earlier said it might take up to two days to resume supply to the city.

The authorities have asked British firm Cairn Energy which produces gas from Bangladesh's only offshore field, to temporarily reduce gas supply to the grid to 60 million cubic feet per day from 80 million cubic feet per day.

The outage at the pipeline run by state-owned Bakhrabad Gas Company Limited had forced at least 200 industries to shut down, triggering initial losses of 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 earlier.

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 SG GC1631

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