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Italy declares state of emergency after Austria pipeline blast

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Gas has now resumed flowing through an Austrian gas hub after an explosion yesterday cut off supplies to several European countries. Italy has declared a state of emergency, anticipating a serious supply problem.

A major European gas distribution hub resumed operations early today after an explosion yesterday knocked it offline, cutting off gas supplies to several countries.  

Gas Connect Austria said the flow of gas towards Italy, Germany and Hungary resumed from its hub at Baumgarten an der March after fire and police inspected the site. 

Italy, the Baumgarten hub's biggest recipient, declared a state of emergency following the blast, with the country's Industry Minister warning that it was facing a "serious" energy supply problem. A state of emergency status allows the Italian government to carry out extraordinary measures to try to meet energy demands, such as allowing coal and oil power plants to fire at full blast.

An explosion rocked the gas distribution centre outside of Vienna yesterday morning. One person died in the blast while a further 21 were injured, one seriously, according to officials.

Austrian authorities said the explosion was triggered by a "technical cause," without providing further details. 

Located near Austria's eastern border with Slovakia, the Baumgarten gas hub carries about 10% of Europe gas supply from from Russia, Norway and other states.

It handles some 40 billion m3/y, redistributing it around Europe, including to Germany, France, Italy, Slovakia and Croatia.

News of the explosion threw the European gas market into turmoil amid fears that supplies would be tightened during the winter months. 

According to Reuters, the Italian wholesale day-ahead supply of natural gas rose 150% to €60 (US$70) per megawatt-hour (MWh) — an all-time high.

Snow-hit southern Europe could face energy shortages after authorities warned that Austrian pipelines were likely to be out of action for days following the explosion and fire.

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