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Explosions rock propane plant in central Florida

Firefighters walk through an area of exploded propane cylinders in the aftermath of an explosion and fire at a propane gas company, Tuesday, July 30, 2013, in Tavares, Fla.
AP
Firefighters walk through an area of exploded propane cylinders in the aftermath of an explosion and fire at a propane gas company, Tuesday, July 30, 2013, in Tavares, Fla.

A series of explosions rocked a propane tank servicing plant in central Florida, northwest of Orlando, late on Monday, wounding some people and prompting the evacuation of homes within a mile of the facility, authorities said.

The extent of injuries was not immediately known and there was no official word that anyone had been killed in the blasts, which began at about 11 p.m. EDT at the Blue Rhino propane gas filling station in the town of Tavares, Florida.

An emergency room staffer at the Florida Waterman Hospital in Tavares told Reuters: "We're still waiting for details. We haven't gotten many patients."

Orlando-based CBS affiliate WKMG-TV reported that two people with critical injuries were taken to an Orlando hospital.

Lake County emergency dispatchers said homes located within a mile of the facility were ordered to evacuate as a precaution.

Homeowners who live miles away told local media they could feel the multiple explosions that shook the area every couple of minutes and sent tall columns of flame into the night sky.

Aerial views of the facility from footage shot by a local television station about 90 minutes after the first explosions showed what appeared to be a large fire, possibly fed by continuing explosions, surrounded by smaller blazes.

After another 30 minutes, the main fire appeared to be dying down. The wreckage of what appeared to be burned-out trucks could be seen.

Speaking by telephone to local NBC affiliate WESH-TV, former plant supervisor Don Ingram said the company takes in propane tanks used for home gas grills, clean them, checks the valves and refills them. He said that tanks were stacked on plastic pallets four and five high behind the filling station.

He said a late crew typically refills 4,000 to 5,000 tanks overnight. The nearest residential neighborhood is located about a quarter-mile from the facility behind a row of trees, Ingram said.

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