Tobin Dalrymple and Becky Rynor
Canwest News Service
Sunday, August 10, 2008
"They're evacuating the area so I think they're worried about another explosion," said a civilian Toronto police spokesman. "Maybe they're worried something on site is going to blow, and if it is, it may be bigger than what was there already. So they're being extra careful."
At around 4 a.m., several large explosions erupted from the Sunrise Propane facility in North York on Wilson Ave.
Police said the company stores and distributes a number of highly flammable welding supplies and gases such as acetylene, argon, nitrogen, propane and oxygen which police say is "highly explosive." The cause of the explosion has not been determined.
In a news conference Sunday morning, Emergency Services spokesman Peter MacIntyre said only one person has been taken to hospital with a minor ankle injury received while evacuating his home.
"We've treated some minor injuries at the scene," he said. "Other than this one individual, we have not transported anyone else. It's people we have treated for minor cuts and bruises. We have notified all the area hospitals so they are on standby. They are aware that they could be having an influx of patients and many people will choose to go to the hospital on their own."
Police say the situation remains highly volatile as they attempt to cool two large rail car tanks to prevent further explosions.
Highway 401 has been closed from Finch Ave. to the north, Jane St. to the west, Bathurst Ave. to the east and Lawrence Ave. to the south.
"It's a pretty big area," the police spokesman said. "Probably about a three kilometre radius."
Police have also established a "no fly zone," for the area.
A combined effort between fire fighters, Toronto and provincial police, and special emergency response crews have set up a one-kilometre perimeter around the source of the blast and are in the process of evacuating homes.
No injuries or fatalities have yet been confirmed, but police expect there will be many. Toronto EMS duty officer David Viljak said officials have received reports of "casualties" but can't confirm them because the victims are "inside the hot zone" and behind the barricade.
A police officer said he had heard reports of two injuries from the scene, but none had been officially confirmed as of 7:30 a.m.
"I'm sure there's gonna be a lot (of injuries)," said the Toronto police officer, who would not give his name. "It was a big bang."
Less than three hours after the blasts, a Holiday Inn Hotel in the immediate area was busy taking in dozens of people who had been evacuated from their homes or businesses. Other hotels nearby said they would also be opening their doors to people throughout the day.
Huge billows of dark smoke could be seen from the area of the blast. Several images of the explosions, and videos of the fireballs going off were posted online soon after they occurred.
"It's a pretty large fire, looks like a seven-alarm fire, and it's still burning," the police officer said.
"We are two miles away here, and we could feel it (the initial explosions)," said Viljak.
Several police officers, fire crews and emergency crews are on site, investigating the blast and trying to keep people out of the danger zone. Police have set up a command post to co-ordinate the emergency response.
Some witnesses described the blasts as feeling like an earthquake and causing buildings to shake. Reports from media say that up to 40-60 blasts were heard.
Traffic in the area of the blasts, near the Keele St. and Wilson Ave. intersection, has been shut down and power to the area has been cut.
Toronto police have been stationed on every corner in the area, but in some cases were unable to tell confused residents what was happening or even if they should evacuate.
People on the scene report that there was one large explosion, followed by several smaller blasts. Area residents said that windows closer to the epicentre of the blaze had their windows shattered by the initial blast.
TTC shuttle buses are removing residents from the area, though locals don't know if a general evacuation order has been given. Residents also report the neighbourhood is the site of several seniors residences.
Local radio reports from 680 News said it has been flooded with hundreds of calls from listeners who had heard the series of explosions.
There was "a huge ball of fire with huge bangs or booms" one reader told 680 news, also describing "pieces of debris being shot into the air."
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