Two inmates were killed and more than 150 people injured after an apparent gas explosion rocked the Escambia County Central Booking and Detention Facility in Florida on Wednesday night.
UPDATE: Most injuries reported to be minor after Escambia County Jail gas explosion. Wall collapsed. Investigating if weather related.— WINK Mornings (@winkmornings) May 1, 2014
The blast, which took place at around 11 p.m. on Wednesday, caused part of the building to collapse. Authorities are investigating what may have caused it; at this point, they suspect that major flooding in the area could have been a factor. Kathleen Dough-Castro, Escambia's, chief public information officer, said that the building "took heavy flooding today," but that "we're not sure if that affected what happened here tonight."
A man who works at nearby gas station told NBC News that the explosion felt like an earthquake, adding that "there was a big flash that lit up the whole sky and the whole area shook for what felt like a good five seconds." According to the Pensacola News Journal, buildings within three miles of the incident felt the blast. The Journal adds that police officers and first responders spent early Thursday morning walking local streets, "coralling prisoners into school buses so they could be transported to detention facilities elsewhere in the region." They also paint a vivid picture of the scene:
By midnight, the streets around the facility had been cordoned off, and dozens of bystanders had gathered at the scene. Ida Royster, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1956, stood on her porch watching the tragedy unfold. "I was watching preaching on my iPad," she said, "and they were praising God and shouting. Then, I just heard a big boom."... Many of those who stood by had loved ones inside the jail... "They ain't telling you anything," [an inmate's father, Kenneth Daniels] said as he watched paramedics scurrying back and forth. "All they are telling everybody is to stand back."
About 600 inmates were in the building at the time of the explosion, and those who uninjured have been transferred to other facilities in the area. The injuries reported appear to be mostly minor.