US & Canada

Explosions rock Florida gas plant

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Media captionAerial footage shows a tower of flames rising into the sky, as the BBC's Peter Bowes reports

At least eight people were injured by a series of explosions at a gas plant in the US state of Florida, officials say.

They were working at the Blue Rhino propane plant in Tavares when the blasts began about 23:00 local time (03:00 GMT), blowing the roof off.

The explosions continued for about an hour and caused a large fire. The cause of the initial blast is not yet known.

Fifteen workers were found safe after initially being feared missing, while two others managed to escape unhurt.

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Media captionJohn Harrell, Lake County Sheriff's Office: "More and more explosions"

Lake County Sheriff's Office spokesman John Harrell said the missing workers had merely "scattered" when the explosions began and had since been contacted by their managers and emergency crews.

People living within 0.5 miles (0.8km) of the plant have been evacuated, although Mr Harrell said emergency crews believed the fire had been contained and that there was no immediate danger to them.

Firefighters had to wait about four hours before they could approach the fire because conditions were so dangerous.

Four people are in critical condition across two area hospitals, but others injured drove themselves to hospital, Mr Harrell said.

Officials are investigating the blasts.

On Tuesday morning, Tavares Fire Chief Richard Keith told reporters investigators did not think it was an act of sabotage.

"It was probably a human or equipment error," he was quoted by the Orlando Sentinel as saying.

The plant north-west of Orlando refilled propane tanks typically used for outdoor cooking. There were about 53,000 20-gallon (75-litre) tanks at the plant before the explosion.

About 4,000 to 5,000 tanks were refilled each night and were stacked on plastic pallets four or five high behind the filling station, former plant supervisor Don Ingram told a local broadcaster.

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