‘35 boats on fire, people jumped into the water’: At least 8 dead in Tennessee River inferno (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

‘35 boats on fire, people jumped into the water’: At least 8 dead in Tennessee River inferno (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

Southern Torch © REUTERS

A huge blaze raged across a dock on the Tennessee River in Scottsboro, Alabama early on Monday, destroying 35 vessels, mostly houseboats, and killing at least eight people, according to the local fire chief.

Several others have been hospitalized, with local officials saying it’s not yet known how many more people may have been on board vessels that sank during the disaster.

The fire reportedly started close to the shoreline, making it difficult for firefighters to get close enough to fight the blaze, while gas canisters on board nearby vessels likely aided the quick spread of the flames. An aluminium roof over the dock collapsed during the fire, further impeding first responders.

By the time the fire reached the houseboats at B-Dock, it had turned fatal: people were caught unaware in their beds, with some jumping into the river for safety, while others were trapped in their homes.

 

Footage and photos of the inferno that were shared online show the blazing dock as a wall of flames. Scottsboro Fire Chief Gene Necklaus said some of the survivors had no option but to jump into the water when their escape route was cut off by fire. He described the scene to local reporters as “one of the most devastating things I’ve ever seen.”

One eyewitness said it took just 20 minutes for the whole dock to go up in flames. Search operations continue at the location, but authorities say some of the debris will need to be removed before divers can enter the water to continue to look for victims.

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