The Qantas Airbus A380 engine blast was far more serious than first indicated, according to new reports into the incident.

It has emerged that the superjumbo en route to Sydney suffered a ruptured fuel pipe which could have caused a disastrous mid-air explosion.

The Sydney Morning Herald said that official preliminary reports showed elements from the exploding engine ripped through the wing, narrowly missing a fuel tank and severing a fuel pipe.

Qantas has refused to comment on the damage to the aircraft, which was carrying 466 passengers and crew, or on whether more than 50 warnings of system failures were sent to the cockpit during the emergency.

“We’re not going to speculate on that,” a spokeswoman told news agency AFP, adding that the airline was still carrying out its own checks on its six A380s which have been grounded since the emergency landing in Singapore on November 4 .

Richard Woodward from the Australian and International Pilots Association, who said he had spoken to the pilots who brought QF32 safely back to Singapore, said the damage to the aircraft was such it could have exploded.

“That depends whether there is an ignition source of course… and I don’t think any of us know that,” he told Australia’s ABC Radio.

“I know that the fuel pipe was severed because the crew had trouble transferring fuel around and there was certainly an indication from the airplane that they couldn’t transfer fuel so that’s probably the reason.”

The incident is still under investigation but Qantas has said that as many as 40 Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines fitted to the A380s in use around the world may need to be replaced.

Woodward said the fact that the aircraft survived such bad damage and was still flying well proved its strength. “It’s absolutely a testimony to the aircraft and its structures,” he said.