A major gas pipeline blew up in a remote wooded region in the Russian far north on Thursday, belching a huge pillar of flames skyward in the latest breakdown in Russia’s decaying oil and gas network.
No injuries were reported in the explosion, which scorched an estimated 12 acres of thick forest in the same Komi republic where a massive oil spill from leaking pipes occurred last year.
A Japan Air Lines pilot and his passengers spotted the huge fireball as they passed over the area en route to Tokyo from Frankfurt, Germany. “It was as if the sun was climbing upward,” one passenger said.
Russian officials, who in the past have tried to cover up such accidents, downplayed the blast.
A spokesman for Gazprom, the state gas monopoly, rejected the pilot’s description of a fireball five miles high and said it reached no more than 60 feet.