Oil spill on Montana's Yellowstone River forces evacuation

LAS VEGAS Sat Jul 2, 2011 4:12pm EDT

A motorist fills up at an Exxon service station in Burke, Virginia, July 29, 2010. REUTERS/Stelios Varias

A motorist fills up at an Exxon service station in Burke, Virginia, July 29, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Stelios Varias

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LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - An undetermined amount of crude oil spilled from an ExxonMobil pipeline into the Yellowstone River in Montana, prompting evacuations of nearby residents on Saturday, authorities said.

The spill that was detected early Saturday came from a crude oil pipeline that runs from Silver Tip to Billings, Montana, the ExxonMobil Pipeline Company said in a statement. The pipe was subsequently shut down and state and federal authorities were alerted, the company said.

Nearby residents in Laurel, Montana, were evacuated in the wee hours of the morning but were able to return to their homes by 6 a.m., said a spokesman for Laurel City Fire and Ambulance.

"Evacuation orders for all of Yellowstone County have been lifted," the emergency services spokesman said.

Exxon said the cause of the rupture was not yet known and it was unclear how much oil had been released.

"We recognize the seriousness of this incident and are working hard to address it," the company said in a statement. "Our principal focus is on protecting the safety and health of the public and our employees."

(Writing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Greg McCune)

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