UPDATE 2:00 AM EDT:
All of the 15 unaccounted workers have been found safe after a Blue Rhino gas plant exploded in Tavares, Florida, according to reports from WESH-TV.
Friends and relatives of plant workers are asked to report to the Institute of Public Safety in Tavares for answers about the incident. No fatalities have been reported so far.
Between 24 and 26 people were working at the plant when the explosion happened. The propane tanks were spread around the plant at the time of the explosion.
No information has been given about what caused the explosion to happen. Two uninjured workers who escaped are being interviewed by fire officials.
The First United Methodist Church of Tavares has been opened as an evacuation center. Roughly 50 homes were evacuated.
UPDATE 1:25 AM EDT:
Explosions have continued after an initial blast at a Blue Rhino gas plant on Monday night. The first explosions were first reported at 10:30 pm local time.
Five people in total have been airlifted from the scene and one person was transported to a local hospital by ambulance, reports WESH TV.
Firefighters arrived after the first explosion. Tavares Fire Chief Richard Keith reported that he pulled his firefighters out after the second explosion, fearing they could get hurt.
About 53,000 20-lb cylinders were at the plant earlier on Monday Seven people have been transported to the hospital and 15 workers are unaccounted for at this time. Chaplain services are being provided to the families of the workers still missing. Two people escaped from the facility unaccounted for.
An evacuation order has been reduced to half a mile and is expected to remain that way until around 6 am. However, the evacuation order could be extended if the fires flare up again.
Firefighters are working to make sure the situation is under control before they enter the plant and search for survivors. At least 200 first responders including law enforcement, firefighters, and EMS personnel were on the scene.
One shelter has been opened in Tavares for displaced residents. All reported injuries were workers at the plant.
At this point, it appears that the fires are contained.
UPDATE 1:00 AM EDT:
Two critical burn patients were taken to a local hospital after a Tavares gas plant exploded on Monday night. The patients were taken to a Level 1 hospital in Central Florida. No other patients have been reported yet.
About 24 people were working at the Blue Rhino plant when an explosion inside a building blew the roof off and ignited thousands of LP gas propane tanks.
Hundreds of firefighters have arrived at the scene, but it is too dangerous to approach the fire and try to combat the flames at this time. Because of its volatile nature, the only way to fight a LP gas fire is a specialized foam.
Authorities have given little information at this point, as they have not been able to fully assess the situation. However, at least 15 people are unaccounted for. No fatalities have been reported so far
While thousands of smaller propane tanks have exploded, there are three 30,000 gallon gas tanks that remain intact. Barring a wind change, the tanks will likely not explode.
It is believed that two massive tanks more than 3,700 square-feet in size exploded, starting the fires that are still burning at this point.
UPDATE 12:50 AM EDT:
Authorities are now reporting that 15 people are unaccounted for after a Blue Rhino gas plant exploded in Tavares, Florida on Monday night.
Along with the gas plant, a landfill with chemicals, a lumber yard, and an animal shelter are located nearby the plant.
Several Lake County residents took to Twitter to report what they saw and heard on Monday night. One user commented, “Shook my house and I live at least 4 miles away.”
The Blue Rhino gas plant specializes in refurbishing and refilling propane tanks typically used for backyard barbecues. The plant typically refills about 6,000 tanks per day.
The gas plant explosion was seen up to 15 miles away and residents reported feeling the explosions rattle their windows and homes. Explosions have been going off every few seconds. Along with propane tanks, semi trucks are also on fire at the plant. Several roads have been closed and a one-mile evacuation has been ordered around the plant.
Photographs and videos of the explosion can be seen below.
UPDATE 12:34 AM EDT:
A spokesman in Lake County, Florida has said that a “mass casualty” scene was set up after a Florida gas plant exploded on Monday night.
While the spokesman did not confirm casualties happened in the explosion at a Blue Rhino gas plant, the designation allows emergency responders to set up triage and bring in helicopters for possible evacuations.
Tavares City Administrator John Drury reported to The Orlando Sentinel that 24 people were working the night shift on Monday and 10 of them are unaccounted for at this point.
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Five helicopters landed at the LakeTech Institute of Public Safety to take patients to local hospitals. At least six ambulances were also spotted.
It is expected that firefighters will not combat the fire, because LP gas is incredibly volatile. While fire retardant foam can be used, it is unlikely to help in the massive fires after
Lake County, FL — A gas plant exploded in Florida on Monday night, causing multiple injuries and forcing evacuations of the area.
Information is still coming in, but reports say that the explosions started at the Blue Rhino plant shortly before 11 pm local time. Residents reported sounds similar to a shotgun or fireworks going off for several minutes.
The Orlando Sentinel added that flames were reported from five miles away and the vibrations were felt as far away as Mount Dora.
Residents were gathered along Lake Dora and in a park in downtown Tavares to watch the explosions. Passers-by at the plant reported seeing thousands of propane tanks loaded on pallets that were exploding every minute or two.
NBC News reports that the gas plant explosion caused multiple unspecified injuries. However, no number has been given and police have offered no statements on the situation at this point. Nearby roads are closed for three or four miles surrounding the plant.
A deputy at the scene suggested that a worker may have been filling a leaky propane tank when a spark ignited it. The report has not been confirmed at this time. About 15 to 20 workers are present at the plant each night.
Blue Rhino is the second-largest distributor of propane in the United States. The plant relocated to Lake county seven years ago.
This is a breaking news article and will be updated as more information is available.