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Explosion At Florida Jail Kills 2, Injures Dozens Of Inmates

An apparent gas explosion at a jail in Pensacola, Fla., has killed at least two inmates and injured more than 100 people, including some corrections officers, according to local reports. But it's not clear yet whether the incident at the Escambia County Jail has anything to do with the extensive flooding in the region.

The Pensacola News Journal reports:

"The blast, which occurred around 11 p.m., rattled houses up to three miles away and forced county officials to evacuate some 600 prisoners.

"Droves of police officers and first responders roamed up and down Leonard Street in the wee hours of Thursday morning, corralling prisoners into school buses so they could be transported to detention facilities elsewhere in the region. Emergency personnel from as far away as Orange Beach, Ala., responded to the scene."

Kathleen Castro, the county's public information manager, says the jail did get extensive flooding during heavy rains, according to The Associated Press, but she didn't know whether flooding in the area was a factor.

The News Journal says that:

"Sacred Heart Hospital spokesman Mike Burke said Thursday that 31 people had been admitted to the hospital in relation to the incident — all with non-life-threatening injuries. Eighty-one victims were also being treated at Baptist Hospital facilities in Pensacola (50) and Gulf Breeze (31), a spokeswoman said Thursday morning. Meanwhile, 37 patients were being treated for 'minor injuries' at West Florida Hospital, spokesman Kendrick Doidge said.

"By 2 a.m., search and rescue crews had accounted for all jail personnel and all but two prisoners, Escambia County Fire Chief Steve Booth said. The chief said that two unidentified inmates had also been confirmed dead, the newspaper said."

Update at 4:05 p.m. ET. All Inmates Are Accounted For:

Escambia County officials say 184 victims were transported to hospitals. All the inmates have been accounted for.

Officials say local and federal officials are still investigating the cause of the explosion. The investigation will begin in full on Friday.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.