A series of explosions at a propane facility early Sunday forced police to evacuate a residential area in the city’s northwest.
“It was just a tremendous explosion and blew all the windows out of the house, just blew the house up, and I just managed to get out of there in time,” said Robert Helman, who lives across the street from the facility, which he identified as Sunrise Propane. Helman, who was covered in cuts and bruises, said when he went outside, he saw a “huge fireball” followed by “multiple explosions.”
He said when he ran a “wave of a heat” followed him. The first explosion sounded like a loud thunderclap and could be heard at least seven kilometres away. It was followed by a series of more muffled explosions.
Clouds of black smoke could be seen billowing hundreds of metres into the air. An emergency worker with Bombardier, which has a facility in the area, said he saw houses on fire. The worker, who did not want to be identified, also said he saw propane tanks dropping from the sky.
The worker said the propane supply was shut down, but warned there could be more explosions until the remaining in the tanks is all burned up.
Police brought in buses to take residents out of the area to the Yorkdale shopping centre southeast of the scene of the explosions. It was not immediately known how widespread the evacuation was or how many residents were involved.
Some people moved away from the danger zone were wearing masks because the air was foul. Police with megaphones were warning residents that the air was toxic and they should leave the area. Toronto police could not indicate how widespread the evacuation was or whether there were any casualties.
Police said there were workers at the propane facility, but it wasn’t known how many or what happened to them. Scores of police and emergency vehicles were on the scene trying to keep people out of the danger zone.
Update: Condolences to the family of a fallen Firefighter who died today.