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No fatalities after US gas plant blasts

30 July 2013, 14:39

Tavares — All of the workers at a Florida propane gas plant rocked by massive explosions were accounted for early on Tuesday morning after officials initially reported more than a dozen employees missing.

John Herrell of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said early on Tuesday that there were no fatalities despite massive blasts that ripped through the Blue Rhino propane plant late on Monday night. Seven people were injured and transported to local hospitals.

"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."

Herrell earlier had said 15 workers were unaccounted for after the blasts, but all were later found safe. Herrell said several fled the scene, some driving themselves to area hospitals.

The Blue Rhino plant refilled propane tanks typically used for barbecues and other uses.

Herrell said a crew of 24 to 26 people were working at the plant on an overnight shift when the explosions occurred late on Monday.

Fire contained

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.

Herrell said an evacuation zone initially had a 1.6km radius but had been reduced to a 800m radius. No injuries have been reported to residents in the neighborhood.

Herrell said officials believe the fire is contained and won't spread to another part of the plant but they cannot guarantee that.

Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said he was still getting "preliminary information" from local authorities.

The blasts began about 23:00.

Herrell said the plant usually has 53 000 9kg propane tanks.

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

- AP

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