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I happened to be in the San Francisco Bay area last Thursday and Friday and saw first-hand the smoke and ash rising from the San Bruno gas explosion. On Sunday, many residents were permitted to return to their neighborhood and survey the devastation.

According to news reports, the explosion launched a nearly 30-foot segment of the 30-inch diameter pipe about 100 feet. The blast left a crater more than 150 feet long and more than 25 feet wide (more than 3,750 square feet). Nearly 50 homes were destroyed. Seven people have been confirmed dead and six others remain missing. The explosion injured at least 60 others.

San Bruno residents reported smelling gas in the week before the pipeline explosion, however, Pacific Gas & Electric said it received no calls. However, PG&E had previously submitted paperwork saying the pipeline was within the "top 100 highest risk" pipeline sections in PG&E territory. PG&E also considered the San Bruno pipeline a "high consequence area" that requires stringent safety inspections and integrity assessments.

The cause of the explosion remains under investigation. California regulators have ordered PG&E to inspect all of its natural gas pipelines. Regulators intend to appoint an independent expert commission to assist with the investigation.

Additional Coverage of the San Bruno Pipeline Explosion:

(c) Copyright 2010 Brett A. Emison

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