A fire that tore through a boat dock in Alabama early Monday has left at least eight people dead, officials say.
The massive blaze that broke out in Scottsboro consumed 35 vessels -- mostly houseboats, according to Scottsboro Fire Chief Gene Necklaus. He said all eight people known to be missing after the fire erupted were confirmed dead and warned “that number could go up, because we don't know how many were on boats" that sank.
"There were numerous people rescued from the water who had escaped by going into the water," added Jackson County Chief Sheriff's Deputy Rocky Harnen.
"We have several people who were taken to the hospital from being in the water, and some had minor burns," he told the Associated Press.
It had been a challenge for rescuers to reach the victims, as an aluminum roof over the dock on the Tennessee River collapsed.
"The damage from the dock has fallen on top of the boats, and some of the boats have drifted off," Harnen said.
The fire destroyed the B dock, about 50 yards from the A dock where the boat of Mandy Durham and her boyfriend is moored.
"We woke up hearing screams and popping noises," 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," she said. "All these boats have propane tanks and gas tanks, and that’s a lot of fire."
People were jumping onto a boat at the end of the dock because fire had consumed the middle portion and that was their only escape. But then the flames spread to that boat, leaving water as their only way out, Durham said.
"Water was the only place they had to go," Durham said. “Its just extremely sad. It's horrible.”
The cause of the blaze was not immediately clear.
Most of the boats that were destroyed had people living on them permanently, but some mainly spent weekends on them, Durham said. The park where the dock is located includes a boat ramp, a dock and a restaurant, and offers boat rentals, according to Jackson County's government website.
"Everybody is just hoping to find the ones they knew on that dock. There were families there. It's devastating," Durham said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.