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(TAVARES, Fla.) — At least eight people were injured — four of them critically — after several large propane tanks exploded late Monday night at a gas plant in Tavares, Fla., sending “humongous” flames and smoke into the sky, according to officials.

The tanks at the Blue Rhino gas plant, which is approximately 40 miles northwest of Orlando, began exploding around 11 p.m. Monday.  Authorities initially reported that 15 people were unaccounted for, but later said that they were found, according to Lt. John Herrell with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, who addressed reporters in an early-morning news conference.

There have been no reports of fatalities.

“People from very far away and in towns six, seven, eight, 10 miles from here were reporting feeling their homes shaking,” Herrell said Tuesday morning.

Orlando Regional Medical Center said they received three male patients who are currently listed in critical condition and are being treated for burns. Shands Hospital said they were treating one person in critical condition.

Fire officials said that 24 to 26 people were scheduled to work at the gas plant when the explosions and fire broke out.  Blue Rhino executives told ABC News that all scheduled employees have been accounted for and are alive.

Herrell said the workers who escaped the plant were toward the front of the property, which is separate from where the explosions took place.

Ashley McCormick lives in neighboring Mount Dora, Fla., and told ABC News over the phone she could see the fire from seven miles away.

“You could definitely see the fire from across the lake. It was humongous even from seven miles away,” McCormick said.  “You could hear the explosions just…one after another and then after it would explode a fireball would shoot up into the sky.”

There were 53,000 20-pound cylinders at the gas plant where the explosions took place, officials said.

“I have heard tons of booms for at least 30 minutes,” Mount Dora resident Blake Cottle told ABC News affiliate WFTV.

Officials said roughly 50 homes in the area were evacuated.  Herrell said an evacuation zone was initially a one-mile radius but had been reduced to a half-mile radius.  First United Methodist Church in Tavares has opened their doors to take in families.

There is no information to suggest the public should be concerned about the propane in the air, Herrell said.

Authorities say they are not aware of any damage to other properties, but will get a better look at the surrounding area later Tuesday morning.  Police are checking on reports of projectiles from the fire damaging a local strip mall.

The Blue Rhino plant refilled propane tanks typically used for barbecues and other uses.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


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