A gas explosion at a Pensacola jail killed at least two and injured more than 100 inmates and correctional staff Wednesday night — one day after historic floodwaters devoured roads and ruined homes across the panhandle.
The explosion reportedly erupted at about 11 p.m. local time near the facility’s book center, causing part of the structure to collapse, according to the Associated Press. There’s no word if the accident was caused by the week’s heavy storms, which did flood portions of the jail.
The injured were taken to hospitals and more than 400 uninjured inmates were transferred to jails in neighboring counties.
On Wednesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in 26 counties and called on state and local agencies to respond rapidly to the needs of affected families.
“We’re continuing to work with local leaders on the ground to give them the support they need to keep families safe and get them back on their feet,” he said in a statement.
“To support our local leaders, early this morning I instructed the National Guard to deploy 24 high-water vehicles to the impacted counties to assist with rescue and recovery operations.”
At least one woman in Pensacola, Florida, died after her car was swept into a drainage ditch, according to authorities.
On Tuesday night, more than 15 in. of rain fell before midnight at Pensacola Airport — setting a new record for the rainiest single day in the area.
“We’ve seen flooding before, but never flooding that washes the back of a house away,” said CNN iReporter Matt Raybourn of Pensacola. “There are no words for what we are seeing here.”
Elsewhere in Escambia County, local officials responded to 281 emergencies while fire rescue teams answered more than 266 pleas for help on Wednesday. According to the county’s official website, the local 911 dispatch received more than 4,000 calls between the start of the emergency at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
The behemoth three-day storm system cut through large swaths of the Great Plains and South as tornadoes, hail and floods left more than 30 people dead.