Massive explosions rock Florida propane plant (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
The series of explosions began at about 10:30 p.m. local time.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, witnesses compared the sound
to fireworks or loud shotgun fire. Apparently the initial blasts
completely destroyed the two large LP storage tanks, which the
plant used to refill smaller backyard tanks.
“I heard a loud bomb sound,” said Lisa Garner, who
lives nearby in the Tavares subdivision of Lakeside. “I
thought somebody ran into my house.”
A night shift crew of 24 to 26 people was at the plant when the
explosions started, according to Lt. John Herrell, a Lake County
Sheriff's Office spokesman. All of them have been accounted for,
although there is slight chance that somebody was present at the
facility without the management knowing about it he said.
Seven crew members injured in the incident have been transported to hospital while two or three others sought out medical treatment on their own accord. The others escaped the explosions unharmed, Herrell said.
Authorities announced a mile-radius evacuation following reports of the plant fire. The evacuation zone was reduced to a half-mile radius hours later. No injuries were reported outside of the propane plant. Residents of roughly 50 homes were affected by the evacuation.
An Orlando Regional Medical
Center spokesperson confirmed three burn victims from Blue Rhino
had been admitted in critical condition.
The massive blaze continued to rage at the facility for at least three hours after the initial explosions. Live footage broadcast by WESH Orlando showed about a dozen trailers storing LP tanks engulfed by the inferno.
Additional explosions were sporadically occurring as individual cylinders blew up due to heat from the fire, sending shrapnel flying. The facility is believed to hold some 53,000 20-gallon tanks in total, according to police.
Firefighters had to keep their distance from the site, limiting their ability to prevent the fire from spreading to the wooded area surrounding Blue Rhino, as it was unsafe for them to approach the plant.
The initial blasts may have
been sparked by someone filling their own propane tank when a
leak ignited, although police told the Orlando Sentinel that
information is unconfirmed.
Blue Rhino, the tank-exchange business, where the explosions took place, moved to Tavares approximately seven years ago. The company is headquartered in North Carolina. County road 448 was closed roughly three miles east.
Propane tanks are exploding at the Blue Rhino LP plant in Tavares, Florida pic.twitter.com/CJwGuXUlsP— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) July 30, 2013