Google data center explodes, causing injuries and outages

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A small section inside a Google data center in western Iowa exploded late Monday night, injuring workers and bringing about temporary outages to some of Google’s most popular services including Gmail, YouTube and the Google search engine.

The explosion at the data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa, caused injuries to three employees, local officials said.

“Three workers were accessing an electrical cabinet when there was an arc flash that resulted in all three being burned,” Justin James, the fire chief in Council Bluffs, told CBS MoneyWatch. “All were transported to the trauma center for care.”

Data centers are large buildings that house dozens of supercomputers and servers typically used to store and process information people generate while working on their personal computers. Google has 14 data centers in the U.S., including a second one in the Omaha suburb of Papillion, Nebraska. 

An arc flash is a sudden burst of light and heat that happens when a powerful electrical current travels through a conductor, misses its intended destination and ends up on the ground. The heat emitted from an arc flash can get as high as 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

First responders went to the Council Bluffs data center at around midnight after being told there was a “large explosion,” Council Bluffs Fire Department assistant chief Jim Wood told the Omaha World-Herald. 

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Council Bluffs data center was built in 2007 and now employs more than 900 people, according to the company’s corporate website.

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