Gas Explosion Kills 2 in Florida Jail, Dozens Injured (PHOTOS)
By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | May 2, 2014 1:32 PM EST
Two people have died and more than 180 people have been injured after a powerful suspected gas explosion blasted through the Escambia County Jail in northwest Florida on Wednesday night. The fatalities were inmates.
The explosion severely damaged a portion of the jail. It likewise rattled houses as far as three miles away.
"The explosion shook us so hard it was like we were in an earthquake," inmate Monique Barnes told The Associated Press. She said the impact was so great it knocked her off from her fourth-floor bunk.
Inmates reported smelling gas ahead of the blast. Some complained of headaches.
Hundreds of inmates and corrections officers used a single stairwell during the evacuation. "Everyone was pushing and bleeding," she said.
The explosion was believed to have originated on the first floor in a rear laundry room.
"The building is still standing, it's just unstable and partially collapsed," Kathleen Castro, county spokeswoman, said. "We have reports people heard an explosion and smelled gas. There was no fire," she said.
The ceiling and part of a wall of the facility had collapsed.
She noted the blast may have been related to the severe storms that struck the southern United States, which damaged buildings and infrastructure.
"The facility did receive extensive flooding as a result of the rains yesterday," Castro said.
Up to 150 inmates and corrections officers were injured. There were about 600 inmates - 200 men and 400 women - in the building at the time.
The uninjured inmates were transferred to jails in neighboring counties.
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