Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Fatal Natural Gas Explosion Rocks Durham, NC

Energy
Fatal Natural Gas Explosion Rocks Durham, NC
Nick Knittel / North Carolina Public Radio / WUNC.org

One person was killed and 17 were injured after a natural gas explosion in Durham, North Carolina Wednesday morning.

The explosion occurred at 10:07 a.m., about 30 minutes after firefighters responded to a 911 call reporting the smell of gas in the 100 block of North Duke Street, Fire Chief Robert J. Zoldos II told The Durham Herald-Sun. The firefighters had begun evacuating nearby buildings when the blast destroyed one building and damaged four others, sending up a plume of dark smoke.

"It looks like the front of the Pentagon on 9/11 — but on a very, very small scale," Zoldos, who was a first responder during the attacks, told CBS.


Witness Jim Rogalski, who was working in a nearby office, described the scene to CNN in a text message.

"Half the block is destroyed," Rogalski wrote. "Lots of injuries. Our office across the street was blown out. It was terrifying. Glass and debris everywhere. No one killed in our office but several injuries — deep cuts, head lacerations."

Zoldos told the Durham Herald-Sun that he contacted Dominion Energy, the company that supplies gas to Durham, after receiving the 911 call. Dominion tweeted that its subsidiary PSNC Energy "responded to a call about third-party damage to a natural gas line and the explosion occurred shortly thereafter." Additional PSNC crews shut off gas to the area following the blast.

"Our thoughts & prayers are with those impacted by this tragic event as well as their families," Dominion said.


Dominion has been the driving force behind the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would bring fracked natural gas through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. Dominion has said it will appeal to the Supreme Court after an appeals court tossed key permits for the project over environmental concerns.

For anti-pipeline group No ACP!, the explosion underscored the dangers of using gas as an energy source.

"They tell us gas is safe but it's clearly not," the group tweeted.

The cause of Wednesday's explosion is currently under investigation, the Durham Herald-Sun reported. Officials initially said it was caused when a contractor hit a two-inch pipe beneath the sidewalk, but later said they were still working to discover the cause.

"Until the investigation is complete, we don't know that's the source of the gas leak," Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson told the Durham Herald-Sun.

The building most damaged by the explosion was a former Studebaker dealership now home to several businesses including Kaffeinate coffee shop. It was the owner of that shop, 61-year-old Kong Lee, who perished in the blast, CNN reported.

Of those injured, one was a firefighter, one was an employee of Dominion who had responded to the initial leak report and eight were employees of Duke University, CNN reported. The firefighter was seriously hurt, but their life was not in danger, Zoldos said. Six of those injured were critically wounded.

The blast came as the city of Durham celebrated its 150th birthday.

"It's an irony, I know," Mayor Steve Schewel said as he praised emergency crews for their response, as CBS reported. "But what I will say about that is that what we hoped would be a very happy day it's not a happy day, but, again, it's a day when I am so proud of how our local government functions."

"Secrets of the Whales" is a new series that will start streaming on Disney+ on Earth Day. Disney+

In celebration of Earth Day, a star-studded cast is giving fans a rare glimpse into the secret lives of some of the planet's most majestic animals: whales. In "Secrets of the Whales," a four-part documentary series by renowned National Geographic Photographer and Explorer Brian Skerry and Executive Producer James Cameron, viewers plunge deep into the lives and worlds of five different whale species.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Spring is an excellent time to begin bird watching in earnest. Eugenio Marongiu / Cultura / Getty Images

The coronavirus has isolated many of us in our homes this year. We've been forced to slow down a little, maybe looking out our windows, becoming more in tune with the rhythms of our yards. Perhaps we've begun to notice more, like the birds hopping around in the bushes out back, wondering (maybe for the first time) what they are.

Read More Show Less
Trending
The brown pelican is seen on Queen Bess Island in Louisiana in March 2021. Casey Wright / LDWF biologist

Who says you can't go home again?

Read More Show Less
A helicopter drops water on burning vegetation as the Bond Fire burns in Silverado, California on Dec. 3, 2020. Mark Rightmire / MediaNews Group / Orange County Register via Getty Images

2020 was the largest wildfire season in California's modern history, according to state agency Cal Fire. And, as the climate crisis continues to increase fire risk, there are concerns that 2021 could be just as devastating.

Read More Show Less
Pump jacks draw crude oil from the Inglewood Oil Field near Los Angeles, California, on March 9, 2020. DAVID MCNEW / AFP via Getty Images

More than 1,600 gallons of oil have spilled in the Inglewood Oil Field — the largest urban oil field in the country, where more than a million people live within five miles of its boundaries, the Sierra Club wrote in a statement on Wednesday.

Read More Show Less