Explosion injures at least 100 Florida jail, gas suspected as cause

Reuters News
Posted: May 01, 2014 4:05 AM

By Eric M. Johnson

(Reuters) - More than 100 inmates and guards were injured in an apparent gas explosion at a jail in northern Florida late on Wednesday, a county official said.

The blast partly leveled the four-story Escambia County Jail's central booking facility, which held roughly 600 inmates, at about 11 p.m., county spokeswoman Kathleen Castro. No deaths or escapees were reported.

"The building is partially collapsed," Castro told Reuters, describing the incident as an "apparent gas explosion".

She said the blast may have been related to severe storms that have hit the southern United States.

"The facility did receive extensive flooding as a result of the rains yesterday," Castro said.

An updated statement on the Escambia County website later made no mention of gas, saying only it was an "apparent explosion" after reporting earlier it was "an apparent gas explosion".

The facility, holds about 400 men and 200 women. Injured prisoners were being transported to area hospitals, with those uninjured being sent to other detention centers in Escambia County and neighboring Santa Rosa County, Castro said.

Castro described a frenetic scene where officials were scrambling to get people out of the building, provide medical care, and working to make sure inmates were detained and routed to other facilities. The search and rescue operation was ongoing.

Escambia County is located in the northwestern part of Florida, in the southern United States.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Alison Williams)