A huge fire triggered by explosions aboard two fuel barges moored in Mobile, Ala., has been put out, but three people have been left with critical burns, The Associated Press reports. The blaze forced the evacuation of a nearby cruise ship.
Mobile Fire-Rescue spokesman Steve Huffman said in a statement that the cause of the fires, which broke out Wednesday night on the east side of the Mobile River, had not been determined.
WALA-TV in Mobile quotes U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Mike Clausen as saying initial reports suggest only one barge exploded and that the first of multiple explosions occurred at about 9:30 p.m. ET. Clausen told the TV station that a "clean operation" was underway when the explosion occurred, but he did not elaborate. He said it was not known how much, if any, natural gasoline was on the barge at the time of the explosion.
While WALA mentions only a single barge, the AP reports that two barges were engulfed in flames.
According to the AP:
"Authorities say three people were brought to University of South Alabama Medical Center for burn-related injuries. The three were in critical condition early Thursday, according to hospital nursing administrator Danny Whatley.
"Across the river, the Carnival Triumph, the cruise ship that became disabled in the Gulf of Mexico last February before it was towed to Mobile's port, was evacuated, said Alan Waugh, who lives at the Fort Conde Inn in downtown Mobile, across the river from the scene of the explosions. Waugh saw the blasts and said throngs of Carnival employees and others were clustered on streets leading toward the river as authorities evacuated the shipyard."