PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A crack in a 12-inch gas main is the likely cause of an explosion that killed five people in Allentown last week, power utility officials said on Monday.
Discovery of the crack is a significant development and the power company has stepped up surveillance of other gas lines in the neighborhood, said Joseph Swope, spokesman for UGI Utilities.
"Our technicians have surveyed every foot of pipeline in the neighborhood and crews remain on site 24/7 to continuously survey the six-block affected area every 45 minutes," a company statement said.
"Residents and businesses in the affected area can be confident that it is safe."
The size of the crack is not yet known. Swope said the pipe was being excavated on Monday.
The blast last week leveled two rowhouses, and severely damaged six others. Killed in the fiery explosion were members of two families living in the rowhouses that were destroyed.
The damaged pipe will be sent to an independent lab, Affiliated Laboratory, in Edison, New Jersey, for forensic testing.
Swope said the area had been surveyed by UGI crews just two days before the blast and found to be safe.
(Reporting by Dave Warner; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)