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Google data center has electrical explosion, causing injuries

A section inside a Google data center experienced an electrical explosion late Monday night, injuring workers in a small town just outside of Omaha, Nebraska.

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.”

A company spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday said that Google experienced outages in its search engine yesterday, but that they were due to an “internal error” unrelated to the incident in Iowa.

“We’re aware of a software update issue that occurred late this afternoon Pacific Time and briefly affected availability of Google Search and Maps, and we apologize for the inconvenience,” a Google spokesperson said.

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.

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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