Two people were killed and more than 150 inmates and corrections officers were injured in a gas explosion at a Pensacola jail, a county spokeswoman said.
The explosion happened around 11 p.m. CDT Wednesday in Escambia County jail's booking facility and caused the building to partially collapse, said Kathleen Castro, the county's public information manager. About 600 inmates were in the building at the time, she said.
The jail is almost completely destroyed, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said at a news conference Thursday morning. Not all inmates were yet accounted for, he said, with officials waiting until the building was safe to enter. He said it was possible some inmates had escaped.
At the blast site Thursday morning, pieces of glass and brick were strewn about on the ground. The front of the building appeared bowed out, with cracks throughout. Authorities blocked off roads leading to the jail.
"I ain't never heard anything like it," said Rodney Cozine, standing outside his neighboring home, looking at a large gash in the building and piles of debris.
Castro didn't know if flooding in the area was a factor but said the jail did get extensive flooding during heavy rains that drenched the region Tuesday and Wednesday.
“There was a big flash that lit up the whole sky and the whole area shook for what felt like a good five seconds,” James McLean, who works at a nearby Circle K gas station, told NBC News. He said it felt like an earthquake.
The injured were brought to hospitals and the uninjured inmates were brought to jails in neighboring counties, Castro said. One inmate was pregnant, and she was OK after the blast, Castro said.
West Florida Hospital took in 37 patients with "very minor, non-life-threatening injuries," according to a spokesman.
"All of them have been seen in our ER, treated, and released back into custody," Kendrick Doidge told NBC News.
Another 31 patients were taken to Gulf Breeze Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
The names of the two inmates killed in the explosion weren't immediately released.
A couple of blocks from the jail, Ellis Robinson and his family awoke to a loud noise sometime after midnight, their home rattling. "It shook the whole house," he said. "I got up, the dog started barking, people were running up there." He spent the night observing the chaos and watching as inmates were loaded into buses.
Castro said the fire marshal would ultimately determine the cause.