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Two fuel barges experienced explosions on the Mobile River in Alabama on April 24, according to CNN. The resulting fires were left to burn overnight, as firefighters reported that the situation was not stable enough to approach at close range. By morning, the fires had been suppressed, several hours after the first explosions.
Three employees of Oil Recovery Co., the company tending to the barges, were sent to University of South Alabama Medical Center soon after the blasts, and were reported as being in critical condition after they suffered significant burns.
The Associated Press has reported that the cause of the fire is not yet known, but is believed to be accidental. It appears that the explosions took place around 8:30 p.m. CDT, while the barges were docked for a cleaning process. Several more explosions occurred over the next few hours. The first blast occurred in a ship channel near the George C. Wallace Tunnel beneath the Mobile River – traffic from Interstate 10 flows through the tunnel on a daily basis.
The barges were empty at the time of explosion but were carrying natural gasoline, according to Greg Beuerman, company spokesman for Kirby-Inland Marine. The Houston-based company that owns the barges said that a team has been assembled and sent out to work with other investigators to uncover the cause of the blasts according to the report.
"It literally sounded like bombs going off around,"Alan Waugh, general manager of the nearby Ft. Conde Inn, told reporters. "The sky just lit up in orange and red. We could smell something in the air, we didn't know if it was gas or smoke."
The sound of the explosions shook windows throughout Mobile, and blew open doors in nearby Spanish Fort. Residents near the river who came out to see the wreckage were coated in soot from the smoke.
Carnival cruise ship affected
Across the river was the Carnival Triumph, the same cruise ship which was infamously stranded in the Gulf of Mexico in February, subjecting passengers to unsanitary conditions and power outages. The ship finally landed in the Mobile port after days of floating adrift. The ship is still docked in Mobile undergoing repairs, and was approximately two football field lengths away and directly across from the burning barges. The ship was evacuated and no injuries were sustained onboard the ship as a result of the explosions, the AP reported. A combustible gas leak detector can alert employees or crews to dangerous situations regarding a possible explosion.
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