Mystery explosion damages 25 houses

Mystery explosion damages 25 houses

Mystery explosion damages 25 houses Peter Goffin

Some residents displaced by a powerful house explosion west of Toronto that killed one woman and injured at least nine people living nearby were waiting to return home Wednesday as authorities investigated the cause of the blast.

Natalya Stasik took refuge at a friend's house with her husband and seven-year-old daughter after being evacuated from the townhouse complex where they live, which is near the site of Tuesday's explosion in Mississauga, Ont.

She said there was some damage to the windows and doors of their home, and that police told her to check in at the local community centre - which offered shelter and food to evacuees  - for word on when they could return.

A few residents dropped by the community centre Wednesday morning seeking updates on the situation. One woman said there were about 15 displaced people inside.

An “outside perimeter” around the blast zone was shrunk on Wednesday, meaning more people would be allowed back into their residence. Peel Region police said they didn't know how many people were still out of their homes or how soon they would be allowed back in.

The home at the epicentre of the blast was levelled in the explosion, while two houses on either side of it partially caved in. Debris from the blast, including tufts of foam insulation, was scattered across the streets and on rooftops around the home.

A small crowd watched from nearby lawns and sidewalks as police and firefighters combed the scene and neighbouring blocks.

Authorities said a specialized canine search-and-rescue team was able to go into the rubble of the house that blew up and found no sign of any remaining victims.

“The dogs go in to look for the scent of live victims. Both passes of the houses on either side of the blast zone showed us with no hits,” Mississauga Fire Chief Tim Beckett told reporters on Wednesday.

“So ... we were comfortable that there was nobody in those buildings and in fact we now have people accountable on both sides of the blast zone.”

Beckett said the “long process” of investigating the cause of the explosion was being led by Ontario's fire marshal's office.

Jeff Minten, of the fire marshal's office, said they will be looking at the role gas might have played in the blast.

“We're looking to see what kind of fuels are in there. Gases are predominately going to be our focus,” he said. “Right now, we don't know what caused it.”

Investigators will also be looking into notes found in the area of the blast site that could be related to the explosion, said Police Chief Jennifer Evans.

“It's too early to speculate right now,” she said of the notes. “There's a lot of information coming in, but I'm encouraging people if they find anything suspicious in nature or if they recall seeing anything yesterday, to call us. We're investigating all avenues right now.”

Rhonda Keyes, who lives around the corner from the blast site, was in her kitchen when it happened. “The floors shook, my whole body shook,” she said.

Running outside to check on her husband, Keyes said she found pink insulation raining down as far as she could see.

The couple found “tonnes” of paperwork, CDs, bills and other household items all over the neighbourhood, she said.

They were among those allowed to remain in their homes after the explosion.


Related stories:
Dust explosions pose huge industrial safety risk
Explosion may cause oil insurer billions


(Canadian Press)