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March 11, 2011 > Utility crews before Calif. blast: 'We're screwed'

Utility crews before Calif. blast: 'We're screwed'

By Garance Burke, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP), Mar 08 - Minutes before eight people died in a California pipeline explosion, utility crews scrambled to stop gas pressure surges they feared would cause a ``major, major problem,'' new call logs released by the federal government show.

Operators knew as much as half an hour before the Sept. 9 blast that a botched repair job in a Milpitas control station was letting natural gas flow unabated but were powerless to fix the problem remotely, according to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. records.

The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating what caused the explosion that employees called a ``living nightmare'' later that night.

Eight people died, dozens were injured and 55 homes were left uninhabitable after a giant, gas-fueled fireball tore through the suburban neighborhood.

The call logs - among the documents released by the NTSB last week - reflect the frantic, chaotic scene that evening as workers tried to pinpoint what was causing the problem on its high-pressure transmission lines.

Shortly before the blast, one operator said, ``We're screwed, we're screwed,'' according to the logs.

The utility did not immediately provide comment Tuesday.

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