Three people were critically burned on Wednesday when two fuel barges exploded and caught fire in Mobile, Alabama. The explosions and fire forced the evacuation of a work crew on a disabled cruise ship docked nearby.
Firefighters from Mobile and Coast Guard officials responded on Wednesday night, after a pair of explosions ignited the blaze on two gas barges on the Mobile River east of downtown, Fox News reported. Additional explosions followed over the next few hours. Coast Guard spokesman Carlos Vega said the fire was extinguished early Thursday.
Three people were brought to the University of South Alabama Medical Center for burn-related injuries and all were listed in critical condition early Thursday morning, according to Fox News. Across the river from the barges, a work crew was evacuated from Carnival Triumph, the cruise ship which was towed to Mobile after it became disabled in the Gulf of Mexico in February. The ship is undergoing repairs and many of the workers are living on board.
The initial blast occurred in a ship channel near the George C. Wallace Tunnel, which carries traffic from Interstate 10 under the Mobile River, Vega said. The tunnels were still open and operating, Mobile fire officials said. A fireboat crew was checking the barges to make sure their mooring lines were secured, Fox News said.
The cause of the initial explosion was not immediately clear, but the Coast Guard thought a spark during cleaning might have been the cause. Greg Beuerman, spokesman for Kirby Inland Marine, which owns the barges, said the vessels were empty and were being cleaned. The barges had been carrying a liquid called natural gasoline, Beuerman said. The company has dispatched a team to work with fire department and Coast investigators to determine the cause of the fire, Fox News said.