MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Multiple explosions aboard two fuel barges near Mobile, Ala., led to a major fire Wednesday night that left three people injured, but fire and rescue officials said they planned to let the fire burn into the night because it was too unstable.
Firefighters from Mobile and the U.S. Coast Guard responded at about 8:30 p.m. CDT to a pair of explosions involving the natural gas barges in an area of the Mobile River east of downtown, authorities said.
As they were responding, a third explosion occurred at about 9:30 p.m., Mobile Fire and Rescue spokesman Steve Huffman told The Associated Press. A fourth explosion was reported about a half hour later.
Fire officials said three people were hospitalized with burns. Information on their conditions was not immediately available.
Officials also said they planned to let the barges burn into the night because of the volatility of the situation.
The Carnival Triumph, the cruise shop that became disabled in the Gulf of Mexico last February before it was towed to Mobile's port, was evacuated, AL.com reported.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Ofc. 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 explosions rattled the windows of houses in downtown, blew doors open in the Spanish Fort area and aftershocks were reported in Bay Minette and Fort Morgan, AL.com reported. Video from WALA-TV (http://bit.ly/15NEYJl) shows flames engulfing a large section of the barge.
The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear, Vega said.
Mobile councilman William Carroll told AL.com that the explosions were caused by a static charge.
The explosion comes two months after the 900-foot-long Triumph was towed to Mobile after becoming disabled during a cruise by an engine room fire, leaving thousands of passengers to endure cold food, unsanitary conditions and power outages. The ship is still undergoing repairs there, with many workers living on board.
Carnival didn't immediately respond to a request for comment late Wednesday.
Earlier this month, the cruise ship was dislodged from its mooring by a windstorm that also caused two shipyard workers to fall into Mobile Bay. While one worker was rescued, the other's body was pulled from the water more than a week later.