(Updates with Italy state of emergency due to lack of gas supply) Chestney
VIENNA/LONDON, Dec 12 (Reuters) - An explosion and fire that ripped through Austria's main gas pipeline hub on Tuesday killed one person and injured 18 others, emergency services said, causing Italy to declare a state of emergency due to a lack of gas supplies.
Gas Connect Austria, which operates the Baumgarten site in eastern Austria, said the blaze had been brought under control and police added that the cause was technical in origin.
"There was an explosion around 8:45 a.m. (0745 GMT) and a fire," a police spokesman said. "A wide area has been sealed off and there are expected to be several injured."
A spokesman for the fire brigade said one person had been killed and 18 injured, one seriously. A second police spokesman confirmed that 18 people had been injured.
Footage on social and other media showed a column of fire in the distance rising from a flat landscape.
The hub is important for European gas transit, with natural gas transported to Baumgarten via Slovakia and Germany along several cross-border pipelines.
Gas flows are then delivered throughout Europe via Austria's transmission network.
Gas Connect Austria said its deliveries to Austria's southern and southeastern borders were affected by the blast until further notice.
Italy declared a state of emergency regarding energy supplies at the Austrian hub as its industry minister said the country had a "serious" energy supply problem.
Slovakia's main gas transit route to Austria was suspended after the fire, Slovak pipeline operator Eustream said.
Meanwhile, Russia's Gazprom Export said it was working on redirecting gas flows and trying to secure uninterrupted supplies to clients.
Gas prices in Europe soared on concerns about supply.
The Italian wholesale day-ahead price surged 97 percent to 47 euros per megawatt-hour, its highest recorded level.
In Britain, Europe's biggest gas market, gas for immediate delivery soared 35 percent to 92 pence per therm, a level not seen since 2013. (Additional reporting by Oleg Vukmanovic, Katya Golubkova, Tatiana Jancarikova and Massimiliano Di Giorgio; Writing by Nina Chestney; Editing by Dale Hudson)