MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Officials said three people are in critical condition at USA Medical Center after a barge exploded and caught fire. Officials said units were on the scene on the east side of Mobile River.
Lt. Mike Clausen with the U.S. Coast Guard said initial reports suggest one barge exploded. Multiple explosions occurred, the first around 8:30 p.m. at 200 Dunlap Drive, near Austal. The barge had unloaded natural gasoline prior to the explosion.
It happened between the Bankhead Tunnel and the waterways – not near the Carnival Triumph. Officials said the Bayway and Bankhead Tunnel are open.
Officials with Mobile Fire-Rescue said they will let the fire burn out on its own to prevent further injuries. They said, however, they don’t know how long that will take.
Clausen said crews were conducting a clean operation when the explosion occurred. He said it is not known how much, if any, natural gas was on the barge at the time.
Clausen said one-mile safety zones were in place north and south of the explosion site. He said a three-mile flight restriction had been issued by the FAA. Those channels and roads reopened Thursday morning.
Officials with Austal said employees were evacuated, but they do not know yet if employees should report to work Thursday, April 25. They said check back by 5 a.m. on Thursday for a status update.
The general manager of Ft. Conde Inn, Alan Waugh, saw and heard the explosion when it happened.
“We were up on a second floor balcony and the sky lit up in orange and yellow. My partner was on one end of the balcony and I was on the other. And you thought it was the Carnival cruise ship first, but then you realized it was a little further from the ship. It sounded like planes above you dropping bombs when it first went off.”
He said they could feel the rumble, as well as the heat, from the explosion.
Another group was checking out the scene behind a concrete wall when the second explosion happened. They said they could feel the heat coming from the area.
City Council Member William Carroll said about 30 seconds after the first explosion, his phone started ringing off the hook.
He said he had been told the explosion was sparked by static charges.
He said he hopes everyone involved is okay.
During FOX10’s live interview with Carroll, another explosion occurred in the background.
“It’s always frightening to have something like that happens to you or around you,” Carroll said just seconds later.
Members of the Coast Guard and Mobile Fire-Rescue are investigating the cause of the explosion and fire.