August 10, 2008

Thousands evacuated as huge propane explosion rocks Toronto

Toronto, Canada - A series of huge explosions rocked Toronto this morning as a propane plant (Sunrise Co.) blew up around 3:40 AM. Witnesses watched the series of explosions, two of which caused huge mushroom clouds, like a second sun dawning in the north west corner of Toronto near Keele Street and Wilson Avenue (Downsview Park).

An estimated 5000 local residents were evacuated as fears of even larger explosions and falling debris could have injured many bystanders. One firefighter has been killed in the blaze and one other person is now missing (believed to be the propane plant's truck dispatcher who may have been caught in one of the explosions). Nearby York University has been sheltering evacuees and providing food and water, with discussions of opening up the universities near empty dormitories for any people who have lost their homes.

18 other people are injured from flying debris and the force of the explosions shattered windows, overturned cars, set nearby residential buildings on fire, blew garage doors off their hinges, stripped roofs off of houses and tore trees asunder. The sheer force of the conflagration caused some bystanders to think it was a terrorist attack. Other people thought it was an earthquake or a 747 airliner crashing.

An emergency worker at Bombardier Aerospace’s Downsview operation said he saw propane tanks falling from the sky.

The area now looks like war zone.

A 10-kilometre stretch of Canada’s busiest highway, the 401, was shut down as was the southern end of Highway 400, which carries people to and from cottage country.

The Technical Standards and Safety Authority has sent two propane experts to the scene at the request of the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office, which is investigating the cause of the explosion.

Propane is stored and transported in a compressed liquid form, vapourizing only when pressure is released. The gas is an asphyxiant, meaning it can cause suffocation. Exposure to high levels of propane can cause health problems, including frostbite if it touches skin.

The Sunrise Company supplies nitrogen, propane, helium and argon to residential, industrial and agriculture clients. It also provides safety training for propane and dangerous goods certificates. Questions remain as to whether Sunrise employees or managers were following safety procedures.

Sometimes it can be hard to find a Toronto Dentist you can trust.

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