Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Seven injured in gas plant blasts

Ten of 24 people are unaccounted for following the blasts at a propane tank factory in Florida

Seven people were injured when a series of massive explosions rocked a propane gas plant in Florida.

All of the workers at the Blue Rhino factory in Tavares have been accounted for, after officials had initially said more than a dozen were missing.

John Herrell, of the Lake County Sheriff's Office, said there were no fatalities despite the huge blasts that rocked the plant late on Monday night.

"At this point we have no fatalities being reported," he said. "Management is comfortable saying all of those they knew were there tonight have been accounted for."

One person injured in the explosion is in a critical condition at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital. Two others are in a critical condition at Orlando Regional Medical Centre, and a spokeswoman there said a third patient is en route, also listed as critical.

Mr Herrell said some other casualties drove themselves to area hospitals.

The Blue Rhino plant refills propane tanks typically used for barbecues and other uses. Mr Herrell said 24 to 26 people were working at the plant on an overnight shift when the explosions occurred at around 11pm local time.

Video footage on WESH-TV in Orlando showed fires burning through trucks used to transport propane tanks, which were parked at the plant. The fire was sending plumes of smoke into the air hours after the blast. Emergency crews could also be seen massing nearby.

Mr Herrell said an evacuation zone was initially a one-mile radius but had been reduced to half-a-mile. No injuries were reported among residents in the area and they were later all allowed to return to their homes.

Marni Whitehead, 33, who lives less than a mile from the plant, said she was in bed ready to go to sleep when she heard a loud boom. "It was like a car had run into my house, is what I thought had happened," she said.

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