Major explosion hits gas pipeline connecting Lithuania and Latvia

Flames rise after an explosion at a gas pipeline near Pasvalys, 175 km (109 miles) north of Vilnius, in northern Lithuania on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Paulius Zidonis)
By Thomas Brooke
2 Min Read

A major blast struck a pipeline carrying natural gas in the Pasvalys region of northern Lithuania on Friday, resulting in flames reaching up to 50 meters into the sky and prompting the evacuation of a nearby village.

The explosion hit the main gas pipeline operated by Amber Grid and was reported at around 5 p.m. near the village of Pasvalio Vienkiemiai.

“According to initial data, no people were injured. The fire is being extinguished by the fire brigades that immediately arrived on the scene,” Amber Grid said in a statement.

“There were unexpected sounds; it seemed as if planes were flying somewhere low. A high-pressure gas pipeline exploded on the side of Valakėliai, on the Pasvalys-Šiauliai road, a couple of kilometers from Pasvalys. The flames are shooting up to a high altitude,” Pasvalys District Mayor Gintautas Gegužinskas told local media shortly after the blast.

Nemunas Biknius, CEO of the gas transmission system operator Amber Grid said an investigation has been launched into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Around 250 occupants of the nearby village Valakėliai, which is located just over half a kilometer from the blast site, were evacuated as a precautionary measure.

The affected pipeline, which was built in 1978 and had undergone recent maintenance, supplies gas to the northern part of Lithuania and neighboring Latvia.

“Sabotage cannot be ruled out,” tweeted Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks shortly after the blast. However, Amber Grid chief Nemunas Biknius told reporters that “according to the initial assessment, we do not see any sign of foul play.”

“The investigation will cover all possible options,” Biknius added.

The gas pipeline was temporarily cut off following the incident, and the fire only began to subside four hours after the explosion.

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