Three people have been sent to hospital following a massive explosion at a Mississauga plaza that levelled multiple businesses and shattered the windows of an apartment building across the street.

The blast occurred at around 7:30 a.m. on the north side of a plaza located in the area of Hurontario and Dundas streets.

When crews arrived, firefighters encountered heavy smoke, flames, and substantial debris from some of the units that had collapsed.

Crews were able to rescue a 39-year-old man, a 43-year-old woman, and a six-year-old boy, who live in one of the few residential units at the back of the building.

Paramedics said all three were found on the roof of the building and were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Peel police later said the man’s injuries were serious, while the woman and boy sustained minor injuries.

Two people who reside in a unit on the south side of the plaza – a 50-year-old man and a young child –  were assessed by paramedics on scene but were not taken to hospital.

So far, officials have not received any reports of missing occupants but the fire department is in contact with the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue unit, Mississauga Fire Chief Tim Beckett said.

“Right now, they are not deploying but we are looking to see what the possibilities are there,” he told reporters Sunday.

According to Beckett, about a third of the 20 units in the plaza collapsed as a result of the explosion.

Warming centre set up for displaced tenants

The windows of some of the stores left standing in the plaza were blown out and Beckett said tenants of an apartment building across the street were evacuated due to structural concerns.

He said while he hopes building inspectors will assess the structural integrity of the apartment building today, it is not clear when the tenants will be allowed to return to their units.

“Building officials are going to come on site and they are going to do an assessment,” Beckett said.

Mississauga transit buses were brought in to shelter those evacuated following the incident on Sunday morning and a warming centre has been set up at the Mississauga Valley Community Centre. Beckett said approximately 25 people were at the warming centre this afternoon.

Officials are asking people to avoid the area if possible and have told residents in the immediate area to shelter-in-place as a precaution.

The plaza is located near Thomas L. Kennedy Secondary School but it is unclear if the school sustained any damage as a result of the explosion.

Hurontario Street is closed in both directions between Dundas Street and Hillcrest Avenue because of the explosion. Police said the road will be closed until further notice.

Fire continues to burn

Natural gas lines broken during the explosion are making it difficult for firefighters to extinguish the fire and Enbridge is on scene working to shut off the gas.

“The hope is that we will have the gas shut down within hours,” Beckett said during an update at around 1 p.m.

“They have to do excavation in order to shut that section of the gas down. We can’t shut it down at the meter because the meter is no longer there.”

Freezing rain is also creating challenges for the firefighters on scene, Beckett said.

At around 8 p.m. Sunday, the fire was still burning.  

The fire chief called the explosion “significant,” saying the blast was felt by staff at the fire station north of the scene and by Mississauga’s city manager, who lives several blocks away.

Mike Thomson, who lives in an apartment next door to the plaza, told CP24 that tenants in his building felt their windows shake after the explosion.

“It felt like something hit the top of our building,” he said. “I went up to the roof to see if something had happened to our mechanical equipment and saw the fire in the adjoining plaza.”

Beckett said it is too early to tell what caused the blast but the Office of the Fire Marshal is on scene investigating.

“They have not got into the epicenter of the explosion,” he said.

“This is going to be a long event for us.”