Bangladesh factories back up after gas pipe fire

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DHAKA, Sep 13 (Reuters) Factories in the Bangladesh port city of Chittagong resumed production today, as gas supply was restored following interim repairs to an underwater pipeline hit by an explosion two days ago, officials said.

The fire on Tuesday night disrupted operations in at least 200 factories, including cement, fertiliser, salt and ready-made garment plants, causing some 30 million dollars in losses, according to a preliminary estimate by businessmen.

Officials said the damaged portion of the pipeline had been sealed in preliminary repairs to stop leakages and to control the fire, allowing gas supply to resume, although it would take another week to fully mend the pipe under the river Karnaphuli.

The fire at the pipeline carrying 250 million cubic feet of gas per day to the city, was ''now fully under control and supply of gas has been resumed to all the industrial units to restart production in full swing'', said Mohammad Hasan, a general manager of the state-run Bakhrabad Gas Company Limited (BGCL).

A four-member panel headed by a BGCL general manager has begun investigations into the cause of the explosion and extent of the damage, with instructions to complete the report by tomorrow. Initial estimates put the volume of gas lost at up to 20 million cubic feet.

The authorities asked British firm Cairn Energy today to gradually increase gas supply to the national grid, reversing an earlier request following the fire, to reduce supply to 60 million cubic feet per day from 80 million, officials said.

REUTERS JT KP1313

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