HYDERABAD, India (AP) — A state-owned gas pipeline exploded early Friday, killing at least 13 people and sparking a massive fire that destroyed homes and forced the evacuation of neighboring villages, authorities said.

The pipeline of the state-owned Gas Authority of India Limited exploded at 5:30 a.m. in Nagaram village, the site of a connecting station for the gas company, said Andhra Pradesh Home Minister N. Chinna Rajappa.

The explosion sent flames shooting up into the pre-dawn sky. The fire burned for more than three hours before it was brought under control, Rajappa said.

"The extent of damage is being assessed," he said.

Jyoti Kumar, a spokesman for GAIL, confirmed the death toll.

Residents of neighboring villages were evacuated to safer areas, said East Godavari district collector Neetu Kumari Prasad.

The GAIL pipeline supplies gas to Godavari Fertilizer Co. and Nagarjuna Fertilizer Co.

Nagaram village is about 560 kilometers (350 miles) east of Hyderabad.


AP writer Chonchui Ngashangva contributed to this report from New Delhi.