Florida propane plant explosion injures 8

A series of explosions rock a propane tank servicing plant in central Florida, northwest of Orlando, wounding eight people and prompting the evacuation of homes.

Homes near Blue Rhino plant in Tavares, near Orlando, evacuated

Some two hours after the first explosions were reported the main fire appeared to be dying down, revealing the wreckage of what appeared to be burned-out trucks. (David Manning/Reuters)

Eight people were injured after a a series of explosions rocked a central Florida gas plant Monday night.

John Herrell of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said early Tuesday there were no fatalities despite massive blasts that ripped through the Blue Rhino propane plant. Officials initially scrambled to find more than a dozen employees after the explosions. 

"Management is comfortable saying all of those they knew were there tonight have been accounted for," he said. 

Fire Chief Richard Keith said possible causes of the explosion may be either equipment malfunction or possibly human error. Sabotage was not suspected. 

Tavares, Florida (Google)

One person injured in the explosion was listed in critical condition at University of Florida Health Shands Hospital and three others were listed in critical condition at Orlando Regional Medical Center. Herrell said some others drove themselves to area hospitals. 

The Blue Rhino plant, which is northwest of Orlando, refilled propane tanks typically used for barbecues and other uses. There were some 53,000 76-litre tanks at the plant on Monday. 

Herrell said a crew of 24 to 26 people was working the overnight shift when the explosions occurred around 10:30 p.m. Monday. 

Tuesday morning, smoke still billowed from a storage container on the property, which consists of a couple of warehouses next to each other. The parking lot was littered with thousands of blackened propane containers. Nearby, three 114,000-litre tanks of propane sat untouched. Officials said hoses designed to spray water on the large tanks in case of fire, didn't go off as planned. 

Firefighters had to wait about four hours before they could go near the fire because the conditions were so dangerous. 

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 sent plumes of smoke into the air hours after the blast. 

According to the Leesburg Daily Commercial, the plant was built in 2004 and employs fewer than 50 people.