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Google denies Iowa data centre explosion linked to global outage

“We are aware of an incident at Google’s data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa."

Google has denied a link between an electrical explosion at its Iowa data centre, which left three electricians with significant injuries, and a later global service outage.

An arc flash – where an electrical current grounds itself via the air, and anything that’s in the way, instead of its intended path – caused critical injuries including burns to the three people, who were reported to be working on an electrical substation near the Google facility. All three were conscious when emergency services arrived, with one taken by helicopter and two by ambulance to a nearby hospital, according to US media.

The Iowa Google data centre explosion happened at 11:59am local time (17:59 BST), at what may be Google’s largest North American data centre. (Google does not provide detailed information about its data centres, but the company says it has spent $5 billion and created more than 900 jobs at its Council Bluffs facility, higher figures than any other North American centre Google lists.)

Almost eight hours later, internet users around the world reported HTTP 500 server errors when trying to access Google services including search, maps and Gmail. According to Downdetector most of the issues were reported between 01:52 and 02:52 BST, late at night in the UK, and in the late afternoon in the Western US.

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Update 9 August 2022, 17:24 BST: A Google spokesperson has told The Stack: "The recent Google Search and Maps outage was not due to the incident in Iowa."

They also added the same statement which had been provided to other media: “We’re aware of a software update issue that briefly affected availability of Google Search and Maps, and we apologize for the inconvenience. We worked to quickly address the issue and our services are now back online.”

On the Google data centre explosion, the company provided the following statement: “We are aware of an electrical incident that took place today at Google’s data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa, injuring three people onsite who are now being treated. The health and safety of all workers is our absolute top priority, and we are working closely with partners and local authorities to thoroughly investigate the situation and provide assistance as needed.”

This latest Google outage is unusual in that it affected the Google search engine, which is normally more resilient than other Google services. In Google’s most recent major outages, in August and December of 2020, took down most of the firm’s account-based services, including Gmail and Drive, while search remained unaffected.

See also: Google Cloud losses slump to $858 million