Following an explosion of a barge carrying fuel Thursday, Carnival Cruise Lines had to evacuate their cruise liner Triumph, which was in a nearby dock undergoing scheduled maintenance.
Firefighters extinguished the fire that erupted hours earlier when two fuel barges exploded, leaving three people with critical burns and forcing the evacuation of crew from the nearby cruise ship.
The cause of the explosions remains under investigation, but investigators believe it was likely from a spark caused by a crew cleaning the barges, Coast Guard Lt. Mike Clausen said in a statement.
Officials stated that three people were brought to the University of South Alabama Medical Center for burn-related injuries and were in critical condition, hospital spokesman Bob Lowry said.
Workers were evacuated from the Carnival Triumph, but there were no reports of injuries of workers who were on the ship.
The cruise ship made national headlines after it became disabled in the Gulf of Mexico in February stranding several thousand passengers before it was towed to the port for repairs.
"It literally sounded like bombs going off around. The sky just lit up in orange and red," he said, "We could smell something in the air, we didn't know if it was gas or smoke." Alan Waugh, who witnessed the blast, told AP.
Trevell Taylor was working at Delta Bonds when he heard the explosion adding that he then heard sirens and then a second explosion before finding out that it was due to the barge fire.
"It was so loud, I just about jumped up under this desk … It is a scary thing any time you are talking about gasoline and fuel fires. They are lucky more people weren't hurt," Taylor told WALA.
The barges are owned by Houston-based Kirby Inland Marine, company spokesman Greg Beuerman said, adding the barges were empty as they were being cleaned at the Oil Recovery Co. facility.