Ukraine gas transit to fall temporarily after Austria blast

KIEV, Dec 12 (Reuters) - An explosion and fire at Austria's Baumgarten gas hub will temporarily reduce gas transit via Ukraine and slightly affect gas supply from Europe to Ukraine, gas transport monopoly Ukrtransagaz said on Tuesday.

The explosion killed one person and injured at least 18 others, prompting Italy to declare a state of emergency as flows from the strategic site were cut off. It has also disrupted deliveries to Austria's southern and southeastern borders.

The Baumgarten site in eastern Austria, near Slovakia, is a major regional transfer node, taking natural gas from as far away as Russia and pumping it towards neighbours including Germany and Italy, its biggest recipient.

"Due to the emergency situation in the European Union there will be a temporary fall in the volume of natural gas transit across Ukraine in the Slovak direction," Ukrtransgaz said.

It did not say how much transit volumes would fall by or how long flows would be affected.

Russia pumped 85.5 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas via Ukraine in the first 11 months of this year, 16 percent more than in the same period of 2016.

Ukrtransgaz said Ukraine would also face an "insignificant decrease" in gas supply from Hungary due to the blast and the company is ready to offset the fall using its reserves in underground storages.

The major Slovakian supply route to Ukraine is unaffected, it said.

Ukraine's state gas and oil firm Naftogaz said earlier this year it had imported 7.1 bcm of natural gas in the first nine months of this year and almost all of its imported gas came from Slovakia.

Ukraine, which previously imported gas from Russia, has switched to buying supplies from EU neighbours in an effort to increase its independence from Moscow following the 2014 annexation of Crimea. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Adrian Croft)