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REUTERS/Dan Anderson

Two fuel barges exploded in flames and burned through the night in Mobile, Ala., critically injuring three people and causing minor injuries to emergency responders.

A fire chief initially said the two barges were loaded with a type of gasoline, but the owner of the barges told the AP they had been emptied of their loads of fuel and were being cleaned before they exploded.

The first explosion was reported at about 8:30 p.m. local time, with six more explosions shaking the area during the subsequent six hours as the barges burned uncontrollably. The fire was extinguished Thursday morning.

From the AP:

Authorities say three people were brought to University of South Alabama Medical Center for burn-related injuries. The three were in critical condition early Thursday, according to hospital nursing administrator Danny Whatley. …

“It literally sounded like bombs going off around. The sky just lit up in orange and red,” [said nearby resident Alan Waugh.] “We could smell something in the air, we didn’t know if it was gas or smoke.” Waugh said he could feel the heat from the explosion and when he came back inside, his partner noticed he had what appeared to be black soot on his face.

From AL.com:

Firefighters on MFRD’s “Phoenix” Fireboat determined around 6:30 a.m. that temperatures appear[ed] to be dropping in the barges approximately four and a half hours after a final explosion threw metal into the air, according to Steve Huffman, MFRD spokesman.

“It was pretty powerful,” Huffman said. …

Personnel working on the first truck on scene were sent to the University of South Alabama medical Center after a second explosion was reported at the barges around 9 p.m.

“They got close to it,” Huffman said.

They were released without any “noticeable injuries,” and relieved of their duties for the night.

The cause of the accident wasn’t known on Thursday morning. But we can safely assume the cause had something to do with the dangerous nature of fossil fuels.