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Rush to get going blamed for fire at Soviet pipeline

A fire at the Urengoi gas field late last month destroyed vital Western-made equipment at the head of the new Siberian gas pipeline, causing a serious delay in the operation of the project, industry and diplomatic sources said Wednesday. The fire put out of action for months the first and biggest of 41 pumping stations along the 2,800-mile pipeline.

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According to Western experts only one of the 41 stations is operating. They said the blaze was a symptom of a rush to get the pipeline operating.

Authoritative sources in Moscow said Tuesday that a British engineer had been killed in a fire that destroyed a compressor station on the line. The Western contractors sought a halt to operations, pending an inquiry into the cause of the accident, but were overruled by the Soviet authorities, the sources said.

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