At least eight people have died after an explosive fire broke out along the Tennessee River in Alabama overnight.
At least 35 boats docked along the Tennessee River were destroyed by the blaze at Lake Guntersville, Jackson around 12.30am Monday but authorities said divers need to locate each one and search them individually to be sure.
All eight people who were earlier reported missing were confirmed dead, later on Monday morning and a local fire chief said ‘that number could go up, because we don’t know how many were on boats’ that sank.
At least seven people were sent to hospitals suffering from exposure to the frigid water or the flames. The fire quickly consumed the dock as people were sleeping, cutting off their escape routes and raining debris.
‘We woke up hearing screams and popping noises,’ Mandy Durham told the Associated Press. ‘When we woke up, we could see red through the window.
‘Within 15 to 20 minutes, the whole dock was in flames. All these boats have propane tanks and gas tanks, and that’s a lot of fire.’
At least eight people died and 35 boats were destroyed by the blaze along the Tennessee River Monday. A witness shared: ‘When we woke up, we could see red through the window’
At least 35 boats docked along the Tennessee River were destroyed by the blaze at 12.30am. One witness said: ‘We woke up hearing screams and popping noises’
A woman on one of the boats said: ‘Within 15 to 20 minutes, the whole dock was in flames. All these boats have propane tanks and gas tanks, and that’s a lot of fire.’ Seven people jumped off the boats and dock at Lake Guntersville, Jackson and they were hospitalized with minor burns
Earlier in the morning, eight people were unaccounted for. The number had crept up from seven earlier in the day
Boaters leaped into the water to escape as the blaze consumed the wooden dock and an aluminum roof that covered many of the vessels.
‘Water was the only place they had to go. Its just extremely sad. It’s horrible,’ Durham said. ‘Everybody is just hoping to find the ones they knew on that dock. There were families there. It’s devastating.’
It was a challenge for rescuers to reach the victims. Jackson County Alabama Emergency Management Agency warned people to avoid the land and water areas around the park until further notified, due to the ongoing firefighting/rescue operations.
One local reporter tweeted that 17 agencies responded to the scene early on Monday while it was still dark.
The park on the Tennessee River includes a boat ramp, a dock and a restaurant, and offers boat rentals.
It’s unclear how the fire started at 19 B-Dock near KC’s BBQ.
Hours after sunrise, smoke was still rising from the remains of a wooden dock, and pieces of metal that once formed the roof were partially submerged. Police and fire boats with flashing lights were positioned near the charred remains, and a yellow floating boom was being deployed around the marina to contain spilled fuel.
A total of 17 agencies responded to the scene according to one local reporter. It was a challenge for rescuers to reach the victims
Most of the boats that were destroyed had people living on them permanently, but some mainly spent weekends on them, Durham said. The park on the Tennessee River includes a boat ramp, a dock and a restaurant, and offers boat rentals, according to Jackson County’s government website.
‘The damage from the dock has fallen on top of the boats, and some of the boats have drifted off,’ Jackson County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Rocky Harnen told The Associated Press.
An image from WHNT’s Jordan Dafnis showed the destroyed dock later in the morning as crews continued to work on finding those who are unaccounted for.
Scottsboro Fire Chief Gene Mecklaus initially said seven people were hospitalized in stable condition and seven others who had places on the dock were unaccounted for after the fire destroyed the boats docked in Jackson County Park. The number of missing people later rose to eight.
It was unclear whether they were residents or guests.
The chief said most of the vessels in the 18 slips were houseboats.
‘The damage from the dock has fallen on top of the boats, and some of the boats have drifted off,’ Jackson County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Rocky Harnen said
‘They had slips here,’ Harnen. ‘That doesn’t mean they’re in the water and it doesn’t mean they’re dead. We’re making attempts to find them.’
Harnen added that sonar technology was being used to find more people: ‘We’re trying to get divers down here to search for possible victims in the water.
‘We have several people who were taken to the hospital from being in the water, and some had minor burns.’
Agencies has put booms in the water to prevent the spread of fuel.
‘What’s left of the boats have to be removed from the slips so that the divers can go down and continue their recovery underneath the docks,’ Jackson County Emergency Management Director Paul Smith added.
Later on Monday morning, the Jackson County Marina was pictured after the blaze with the aluminum roof and wood structure destroyed.
Harnen added: ‘The damage from the dock has fallen on top of the boats, and some of the boats have drifted off.’
About half a dozen floated away according to WHNT.
‘This absolutely is devastating. It is certainly the most devastating thing I have ever seen,’ Scottsboro Fire & Rescue Chief Gene Necklaus. ‘The numbers will change as this is an extremely intense and long operation.’