15 night shift workers at a central Florida gas plant are missing after a series of explosions rocked the facility late Monday.
Lt. John Herrell, a spokesman for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, said early Tuesday that the employees at the Blue Rhino propane plant were unaccounted for. Herrell said a crew of 24 to 26 people were working at the plant on an overnight shift when the explosions occurred. He added that seven people were injured and transported to a local hospital and two employees escaped unharmed.
No injuries were reported by residents of a nearby neighborhood, and Herrell said that an evacuation zone had been reduced to a half-mile radius from an initial one-mile radius. Herrell said that officials believe the fire is contained and would not spread to another part of the plant; however, he offered no guarantee to that effect.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that the explosions began a little before 11 p.m. at the plant in Tavares.
Aerial footage of the scene early Tuesday morning showed fires still burning over a large area and shooting large flames and plumes of smoke into the night sky nearly two hours after the blast. Emergency crews could also be seen massing nearby.
Lake County Sheriff Gary Borders said that all the explosions happened inside the plant and that the building’s roof had been blown off.
MyFoxOrlando.com reported that between 12 and 15 people, likely workers, were in the plant’s parking lot at the time of the explosion. The report added that initially, the group ran toward the building after noticing something was amiss shortly before the explosion, but then ran away from the building just prior to the blasts.