3 hurt as fuel barges explode, catch fire on Mobile River in Alabama


MOBILE, ALA. –  A seventh blast has rocked the scene of a large fire that began with explosions aboard two fuel barges in Mobile, Ala.

The latest explosion occurred around 2 a.m. local time on Thursday. About five hours later, the huge fire was extinguished.
Authorities responded after 8:30 p.m. Wednesday to a pair of explosions involving the gas barges in an area of the Mobile River east of downtown.
In an email, Mobile Fire and Rescue spokesman Steve Huffman wrote that as they were responding, a third explosion occurred around 9:30 p.m. Additional explosions followed over the next few hours.
Authorities say three people were transported to University of South Alabama Medical Center after suffering burn-related injuries. Huffman identified them as workers with Oil Recovery Co.
The Coast Guard said early Thursday that a one-nautical-mile safety zone had been established around one barge, which it said was "at the dock for cleaning."

Fox 10 reports that the explosions occurred near Austal, an Australian company that specializes in the design and construction of aluminum vessels. Their facility is located between the tunnels and the waterways near downtown Mobile. Some of the employees at Austal were evacuated.
Lt. Mike Clausen of the Mobile Fire and Rescue told Fox 10 that there was a three-mile flight restriction and a mile-radius evacuation area around the scene of the blast. However, the I-10 Bayway and and both tunnels remained open.
He also said it was not known how much gas the barge was carrying at the time of the blast.

Across the river, the Carnival Triumph, the cruise ship that became disabled in the Gulf of Mexico last February before it was towed to Mobile's port, was evacuated, said Alan Waugh, who lives at the Fort Conde Inn in downtown Mobile, across the river from the scene of the explosions. Waugh saw the blasts and said throngs of Carnival employees and others were clustered on streets leading toward the river as authorities evacuated the shipyard.
"It literally sounded like bombs going off around. The sky just lit up in orange and red," he said, "We could smell something in the air, we didn't know if it was gas or smoke." Waugh said he could feel the heat from the explosion and when he came back inside, his partner noticed he had what appeared to be black soot on his face.

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Carlos Vega said the initial blast took place in a ship channel near the George C. Wallace Tunnel -- which carries traffic from Interstate 10 under the Mobile River. The river runs south past Mobile and into Mobile Bay, which in turn flows into the Gulf of Mexico.

Video from WALA-TV  showed flames engulfing a large section of the barge, and a video that a bystander sent to AL.com showed the fiery explosions and billowing smoke over the river.
The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear, Huffman and Vega said.
"Once (the fire) is out and safe, a full investigation will take place," Huffman wrote.

Courtsey: foxnews.com

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