HOUSTON A natural gas pipeline explosion in North Texas killed three people on Monday afternoon, according to a local official.
As many as 10 others may be missing, said Chester Nolen, city manager of Cleburne, Texas.
"We've heard between three and 10 people are unaccounted for," Nolen said. "The facts are very fluid right now. We're trying to pull together information from three hospitals."
A Texas state trooper said eight workers from Brazos Electric, a generation and transmission cooperative, were digging a hole near the pipe when the blast occurred.
"They were drilling holes to put up power lines when they struck the gas line," said State Trooper Dub Gillum with the Texas Department of Public Safety. "Most of them got out and got away."
Five workers were taken to the Glen Rose Medical Center in Glen Rose, Texas, by private vehicle, said Gary Marks, chief executive of the medical center. The five men had suffered burns and were listed in stable condition.
Enterprise Products Partners said it owns the 36-inch pipeline, which is part of its Texas Intrastate system. The explosion was 15 miles south of Godley, Texas.
The Texas intrastate pipeline system transports natural gas within the borders of the state of Texas.
One energy analyst said the gas pipeline blast could add to jitters about energy supply from across the Gulf Coast, where the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has prompted the government to place limitations on drilling .
"The explosion comes at a time when uncertainty surrounds future drilling activities amid a moratorium that the government has imposed," said Phil Flynn, analyst with PFGBest Research in Chicago. "It comes at a time when forecasts for Gulf of Mexico natural gas production are falling and just after the recent ominous forecast about the current hurricane season had been priced in" to futures markets.
(Reporting by Erwin Seba, Bruce Nichols, Eileen O'Grady and Kristen Hays in Houston and Gene Ramos in New York)