TAVARES, Fla. - (Update: 4:55 a.m.) Propane explosions at the Blue Rhino LP gas plant rocked the Tavares area on Monday night, injuring seven people.

A massive emergency response was called to the plant, which is located at the 300 block of County Road 448, after multiple injuries were reported.

All employees on staff at the time of the explosion were accounted for by 2 a.m., Lake County spokesman John Herrell said.

"Plant management is comfortable saying they are accounted for," Herrell said.

Seven people were hurt -- some of them critically injured, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

"It's very, very dramatic. It's surreal," Herrell said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families."

One person was taken to Ocala Regional Hospital, three more men were flown to Orlando Regional Medical Center with critical burns and one person was taken to Shands Hospital. No fatalities were immediately reported.

A fire broke out at the plant at 10:30 p.m. Monday. Herrell said 24 to 26 workers were on staff at the time of the explosions.

"The employees were able to escape and scatter away because the explosion was not in their part of the building," Herrell said.

The plant contained about 53,000 20-pound propane cylinders, Herrell said.

A half-mile evacuation of the area was ordered before midnight to remain in effect until 6 a.m., affecting roughly 50 households. But that order was lifted by 3 a.m.

Several locals called WESH 2 to report seeing flames and hearing loud explosions.

"It sounds like bombs are going off," Norma Haygood said.

Marni Whitehead said she was about to fall asleep.

"I didn't know what happened until we went outside and saw all of the explosions and the booms and everything," she said.

Locals from miles away said they heard and felt the explosions.

"I don't think you fight this fire. It's just too dangerous," former plant worker Don Ingram said.

The explosions were still heard into the early morning hours on Tuesday. Large propane tanks exploded and smaller tanks on semi tractor trailers caught fire as well.

A shelter was set up at the First United Methodist Church near the plant.

Update: (1:25 a.m.)

Lake County Sheriff's Officer John Herrell spoke to media:

  • 15 people unaccounted for, 7 people transferred to area hospitals.
  • 53,000 20-pound propane tanks were present at the 33,00 square foot warehouse.
  • 24-26 people working at the plant at the time of initial explosion.
  • 2 people escaped uninjured.
  • Cause of the fire is unknown.
  • Fire started around 10:30 p.m.
  • Evacuation initially 1 mile around scene but has since been shrunk to a half-mile.
  • Around 200 emergency personnel on scene.

Update: (12:59 a.m.)

Lake County firefighters report five people were airlifted and one person was transported for treatment by ground. No fatalities reported.

Update: (12:56 a.m.)

Hundreds of firefighters have responded to the scene and are waiting to get closer to the scene. It's currently too dangerous for them right now.

Update: (12:50 a.m.)

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting 24 people were working the night shift, and 10 people are unaccounted for, according to Tavares City Administrator.

TAVARES, Fla. -- Propane tank explosions at the Blue Rhino LP gas plant rocked the Tavares area on Monday night.

Several locals called WESH 2 to report seeing flames and hearing loud explosions around 11 p.m..

"It sounds like bombs are going off," Norma Haygood said.

Authorities could not immediately confirm the cause of the explosions.

According to reports, houses around the area are being evacuated.

The plant is located on County Road 448.

No other information was immediately available.