Blast rocks Florida gas plant

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by CBS News & Associated Press

khou.com

Posted on July 30, 2013 at 7:24 AM

TAVARES, Fla. -- All workers at a Florida gas plant rocked by a series of explosions have been accounted for after as many as 15 were initially feared killed, authorities say.

John Herrell of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said early Tuesday that all the workers at the Blue Rhino propane plant had been accounted for and that no fatalities had been reported after explosions hit the plant late Monday night. Seven people were injured and transported to local hospitals.

Herrell earlier had said 15 workers were unaccounted for after the blasts, but all were later found safe.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

A series of major explosions at a Florida gas plant has injured several workers and left others missing.

John Herrell of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said early Tuesday that 15 people who worked at the Blue Rhino propane plant were still unaccounted for. Herrell’s news conference was carried live by WNET.

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

He said a crew of 24 to 26 people were working at the plant on an overnight shift when the explosions occurred late Monday. He said seven people were injured and transported to a local hospital and two employees escaped unharmed.

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 nearly two hours after the blast. Emergency crews could also be seen massing nearby.

Herrell said an evacuation zone was initially a one-mile radius but had been reduced to a half-mile radius. No injuries have been reported from 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 11 p.m.

Herrell said the plant usually has 53,000 20-pound propane tanks.

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

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