Multiple explosions aboard two fuel barges near Mobile, Ala., led to a major fire last night that left three people critically injured with burns and created a situation so unstable that fire and rescue officials decided to let the fire burn into the night. The injured people were workers with Oil Recovery Co., said a Mobile official. Firefighters from Mobile and US Coast Guard officials responded after 8:30 pm CDT to a pair of explosions involving the gas barges in an area of the Mobile River east of downtown, authorities said.
As they were responding, a third explosion occurred at about 9:30 pm, the Mobile official said. Three more explosions followed over the next few hours. The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear, authorities said. The Coast Guard said early today that a one-nautical-mile safety zone had been established around one barge, which it identified as an "empty compressed natural gas barge that was at the dock for cleaning." 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 a local resident.