FAMILIES face a “perfect storm” of rising oil and gas prices after an explosion in Austria and disruption to supplies from the North Sea hit the industry during the winter cold snap sweeping Britain.

One person was killed and 18 injured at the blast in Baumgarten an der March, close to the border with Slovakia and the site of one of Europe’s biggest supply hubs.

More than 200 firefighters attended the blaze and one witness described seeing an “immense ball of flame” at the site 31 miles north-east of Vienna, which has now been evacuated and shut down.

The blast prompted gas prices to rise across Europe, including a 40 per cent increase in the UK to 95p per therm, a level not seen since 2013.

The National Grid insisted there was sufficient gas to meet demand.

It came a day after it emerged the Forties pipeline would be closed until Christmas after a hairline crack was discovered south of Aberdeen.

The pipeline, which carries 40 per cent of North Sea oil and gas, is expected to be closed for a couple of weeks while repairs are carried out.

Operator Ineos said the repair would be more complicated than first thought as the crack was propagating.

It said the impact for customers would be very significant but the domestic market was not likely to be significantly affected.

Andrew Gardner, chief executive of the Ineos Forties Pipeline System, said workers found the crack in the pipe last Wednesday which then started to grow despite efforts to repair it.

He said: “Over the weekend we noticed the crack starting to develop and grow further.

“It was about 10cm and it grew another couple of centimetres. We reduced the pressure further and then at that point the crack still grew, so the only safe option was to take the system down so we could be convinced that we could stop the growth of the crack and get in and do a proper permanent repair.

“It was a straightforward process when the crack was not moving. Now that the crack is propagating we need to be very careful that whatever repair isn’t just masking a crack underneath, so it will probably be a little bit more complicated than what we thought it was going to be, hence why we need to take the system down.”

Analysts at investment bank Jefferies said: “The timing of the outage could not be much worse as winter weather is just materialising.”

Oil prices also surged, with Brent crude pushing above $65 a barrel for the first time since June 2015, though it later slid back below $64.

Scottish energy minister Paul Wheelhouse told Holyrood there were no plans to shut down the Grangemouth refinery, which uses Forties crude, and no impact was expected on fuel and gas supplies.

Producers including BP, Shell and Chrysaor said they had closed down oil fields in response.

Analyst David Madden, of CMC Markets, said: “Brent Crude oil hit its highest level since early June 2015 as the closure of Forties North Sea pipeline curbed supply.

“The energy market was already strong as Opec and Russia agreed to extend the co-ordinated production cut until the end of 2018, and now this maintenance move by Forties has added to the upward pressure.”

The Baumgarten plant in Austria receives around 40 billion cubic metres of gas each year and redistributes it across Europe, including to Germany and northern Italy.

Italy declared a state of emergency regarding energy supplies, while Russian gas giant Gazprom said it was working on redirecting gas flows to secure uninterrupted supplies to its clients around Europe.

Slovakia’s main gas transit route to Austria was suspended after the fire, Slovak pipeline operator Eustream said.