Two dead after blast at Florida prison

150 inmates and correctional officers injured

Rescue personnel enter Escambia County jail in Pensacola, Florida, yesterday.  Photograph: Reuters

Rescue personnel enter Escambia County jail in Pensacola, Florida, yesterday. Photograph: Reuters

Fri, May 2, 2014, 01:00

Two inmates have died and about 150 inmates and officers were injured at a jail in Florida on Wednesday night.

The explosion occurred just a day after nearly two feet of rain swamped Pensacola in the Florida Panhandle, causing severe flooding

The incident took place in the central booking part of the county intake jail, where 600 inmates were housed.

Injured inmates and correctional officers were taken to local hospitals, many of them for minor injuries. Inmates not harmed were taken by bus to nearby detention facilities.

Whereabouts
“We believe we have almost all our inmates accounted for,” said a spokeswoman for Escambia County, Kathleen Dough-Castro. The whereabouts of three inmates was uncertain, but Ms Dough-Castro said county officials believed they were in the hospital, perhaps being switched from floor to floor for medical procedures.

Ms Dough-Castro said the jail had been flooded by rainwater over the past two days, and fire marshals, who were at the site, were investigating whether the downpours led to the gas leak. A jail wall and part of the roof collapsed in the blast. “The building was flooded through severe rains last night,” Ms Dough-Castro said.

Four hundred of the inmates were men and 200 women.

Pensacola had its rainiest day ever on Tuesday, when 15 inches fell on parts of the city, which is near the Alabama border. Rain continued to fall on Wednesday.

Families
Some family members of inmates waited nearby for word about their relatives. Clarrissa Prim of Pensacola stood for three hours outside the jail for information about her brother but had heard nothing. “It’s frustrating when you wake up to people on the street telling you that the jail just exploded,” Ms Prim said.

Kevin Watts, who lives a block away from the jail, went to the jail to try to help, he said. He waited until all the inmates were removed, he said. – (New York Times)