Gas pipeline explodes in Lithuania on day marking independence struggle from USSR
A gas pipeline has exploded in Lithuania, officials say, as the country marks a historic day in its struggle for independence from the USSR.
LRT, Lithuania’s public broadcaster, reported that there were no injuries in the explosion in the center of the country, but flames rose 50 meters high.
About 250 people from a nearby village were being evacuated from the village of Pasvalio Vienkiemiai after the explosion at around 17:00 local time in Pasvaly District. Authorities said this was a precautionary measure.
Today, Lithuania marks Defenders of Freedom Day to honor those who were killed by Soviet troops on January 13, 1991 in the capital Vilnius, after the country seceded from the USSR.
Fourteen people died and hundreds were injured defending the TV tower as Russian troops tried to topple the new Lithuanian government that had declared independence a year earlier in 1990.
The explosion occurred in an Amber Grid gas main.
“We immediately began to investigate the circumstances of the incident and ensure the supply of gas to consumers,” Nemunas Biknius, CEO of Amber Grid, said in a statement.
“According to the initial assessment, we do not see any malignant cause, but the investigation will cover all possible options,” he said at a new conference.
Gas supplies through the damaged pipeline, which serves northern Lithuania and Baltic neighbor Lativa, to the area were immediately cut off.
Further disruptions in power supply are expected, although Latvia said it had not been affected so far.
“There were sudden sounds, it seemed as if planes were flying down somewhere – a high-pressure gas pipeline exploded on the side of Valakėliai, on the Pasvalys-Šiauliai road, a few kilometers from Pasvalys,” said district mayor Gintautas Gegužinskas.
“The flames are going to a great height,” he added.
According to the Baltic News Service, the pipeline transports natural gas from Klaipeda in eastern Lithuania to Latvia. Klaipeda is located on the Baltic Sea and is the only major seaport in Lithuania.
Raimonds Cudars, the energy minister of neighboring Latvia, said the explosion in Lithuania had not caused problems with natural gas supplies in Latvia.
Cudars was informed that the cause of the explosion was a technical accident.
Lithuania, like war-torn Ukraine, borders Russia. It is located in the Baltic Sea where the Russia-Germany Nord Stream gas pipeline was destroyed by explosions last year.
Firefighters rushed to the scene and flames lit up the darkening Lithuanian sky and were visible several kilometers away, while the remaining gas in the pipe continued to burn on Friday evening.