The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) responded to reports of a barge explosion on the ship channel in Mobile Bay in Alabama Wednesday night at 8:40 pm CT. Another explosion followed just after 9 pm and as many as seven explosions in total sent vibrations through Mobile before the fires died down.
Three people were transported to USA Medical Center for treatment of burns. One person was listed in critical condition. The barges that exploded were empty but had been carrying natural gasoline. Natural gasoline is a volatile natural gas product with an octane rating between 30 and 40. Natural gasoline was used as an early automotive fuel, but is used in the present day as a feedstock for gasoline, paint thinner, solvents and cleaning products.
The Carnival Cruise Ship Triumph, which had been towed to the port from the Gulf of Mexico in February for repairs was moored just 200 yards away and was evacuated. Earlier this year, two workers on the ship fell into the bay when Triumph broke loose from her moorings in a wind storm. One man was rescued immediately and the other was missing for nearly a week before the worker's body was pulled from the bay.
Crews were working to clean the barges as part of regular maintenance and the cause of the blast is still under investigation. A one nautical mile safety zone was imposed by USGS, but as the fires died down through the early morning, the Port of Mobile was reopened, and the safety zone between the George Wallace Tunnel and the Bankhead Tunnel in Mobile Bay was removed.