Officials see an accident, not foul play, in the explosions and fires that engulfed two fuel barges Wednesday night at river's edge in Mobile, Ala. They are waiting for the wreckage to cool to look for the cause of ignition.
Firefighters extinguished a massive fire in Alabama Thursday after explosions went off aboard two fuel barges overnight, critically injuring three people. The cause of the explosion is not immediately clear, but it appears to be accidental, fire officials said.
Vapors from unrefined gasoline had built up in the fuel barges, which were empty at the time of the explosion, US Coast Guard Lt. Mike Clausen told WALA Fox10 in Mobile, Ala., Thursday morning. A spark entered one of the barges, igniting the vapors and creating the first explosion. The force of the explosion caused the second boat to catch on fire, he said.
Mobile Fire-Rescue officials and the Coast Guard are waiting for the wreckage to cool before inspecting the barges to pinpoint where the spark originated.
The initial explosion occurred at about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, but firefighters allowed the fire to burn overnight after six other explosions went off during the night, Mobile Fire-Rescue spokesman Steve Huffman said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
The barges, owned by Houston-based Kirby Inland Marine, were being cleaned at an Oil Recovery Co. facility on the Mobile River, said Kirby spokesman Greg Beuerman. The three injured individuals are workers at Oil Recovery, according to authorities.
The port is just east of downtown Mobile, where residents felt the heat from the explosions.