An explosion in the TransCanada pipe line near Brookdale, Man., Sunday night left a massive crater in the ground and forced more than 100 residents from their homes.

People say the explosion sounded like thunder or an earthquake. The explosion caused a huge fire that could be seen at least 150 km away. The fire was extinguished after gas to the damaged line was cut off, but firefighters continued to battle grass and bush blazes in the area. A crater 100 metres long and up to 20 metres wide has been carved into the ground.

No injuries have been reported from the explosion. People who live in town are being allowed to return to their homes Monday night. Those who live near the blast site will likely have to wait until Tuesday before returning.

The company says it will take several weeks to figure out exactly what caused the explosion, which ruptured one of six buried lines in the area 30 km northeast of Brandon. Natural gas is still running through several neighbouring pipelines.

Wayne Tennesey, a metallurgist and failure analyst with Test Labs International in Winnipeg, says he suspects the soil caused a small crack in the pipeline.

• Incident similar to Rapid City explosion •

Sunday's blast happened about 40 km away from a similar explosion near Rapid City in 1995, in which two natural gas lines ruptured, one due to a corrosion stress crack.

Tennesey says TransCanada PipeLines did a thorough check of their pipeline after the Rapid City explosion and replaced any cracked pipes, but it's tough to find all the trouble spots in such a long pipeline.

TransCanada PipeLines is responsible for about 38,000 km of pipeline, which transports much of the natural gas produced in western Canada.

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