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Leaking oil pipeline catches fire in Chinese city, forcing evacuation of 20,000 people

BEIJING, China - A leaking oil pipeline caught fire in the northeastern Chinese port city of Dalian, forcing the evacuation of nearly 20,000 residents, a government oil company said Tuesday.

The pipeline was damaged by construction work at about 6:30 p.m. on Monday, allowing oil to flow into a sewage pipe, where it caught fire, China National Petroleum Corp. said in a statement. It said the oil burned for 25 minutes before being extinguished.

No deaths or injuries were reported. CNPC said 20,000 nearby residents were evacuated.

Five people from the construction company blamed for damaging the pipeline were detained by police while an investigation was underway, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

China has suffered a series of accidents involving leaking oil pipelines. In June 2013, a leaking oil tank in Dalian caught fire, killing four people, and an explosion caused by a leaking oil pipeline last November in the eastern port city of Qingdao killed 62 people.

Such incidents have fueled opposition to allowing oil-handling facilities in densely populated cities.

Members of the public have grown more alarmed about the proximity of oil lines to municipal utility lines, residential neighbourhoods and commercial districts.

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