One dead, dozens displaced after explosion rocks Mississauga neighbourhood
Chris Herhalt, Sandie Benitah and Joshua Freeman, CTV Toronto
Published Tuesday, June 28, 2016 5:04PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 29, 2016 12:02AM EDT
More than a dozen homes are under a strict evacuation order and hundreds of others remain inside a restricted perimeter after an explosion leveled a Mississauga home Tuesday, leaving one person dead and several others injured.
The Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team arrived at the scene late Tuesday and began working through the scattered debris and wreckage.
Peel Regional Police say they have no idea what caused the explosion on Hickory Drive, but several people suffered non-life-threatening injuries as debris tore through the air in all directions. The age and gender of the person who was killed is not yet known.
Fire crews are spending the night sifting through a massive debris field, looking for clues on what sparked the blast and making sure there are no other victims.
In total, 25 homes were impacted by the explosion – six of which were heavily damaged. An official at the scene told reporters that 12 houses and three townhomes have been evacuated. Officials also said that utilities had been shut off at 58 homes as crews work to stabilize the site.
Fire officials said late Tuesday that some 700 addresses are included in a wider perimeter around the blast where movement is being restricted. Mississauga Fire Chief Tim Beckett said those who are still within the perimeter are being asked to shelter in place, while those who have left are being asked not to return to their homes tonight.
The area is bounded by Rathburn Road to the south, Golden Orchard to the west, Eastgate Parkway to the north and Dixie Road to the east.
Residents were told to move away from the street and told to seek shelter at the Burhamthorpe Community Centre or with friends and family.
Emergency crews were first called to the scene on Hickory Drive, located near Rathburn Road East and Dixie Road, at 4:22 p.m. after numerous residents reported hearing an explosion and seeing a large grey cloud of dust rising into the air.
Police said one home on the street was completely leveled.
A man who identified himself as Paolo said he was walking his dog on Hickory Drive and was about 50 feet from a house when it exploded.
He told reporters he turned around when he heard the blast and saw a home in the air. The blast knocked his mother down as she stood in his home’s backyard but aside from being shaken by the incident, she was unharmed.
The man said he entered one of the damaged homes to search for occupants but found nobody, so he fled the scene.
“It was like somebody punched me in the face,” another woman said of the moment the blast shook her home near to the scene.
A woman who said she lived two doors down from the house that has been levelled said her house shook after the blast.
“It was just horrible, you couldn’t see anything.”
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie arrived at the scene around 6 p.m. to speak with residents and first responders.
“Everyone’s on hand – these are brave men and women,” she told reporters about emergency crews. “I feel very confident they have it under control.”
Residents could be displaced several nights
Crombie said between 50 to 100 residents in the immediate vicinity of the explosion have been ordered to vacate their homes.
Police say nearby Rockwood Mall has been closed, and transit buses will be dispatched to the area to shelter and possibly evacuate residents.
“We’re going to encourage all of those residents who are displaced to go to Burnhamthorpe Community Centre, it’s the safest and most comfortable place for them,” Crombie said.
Residents are being told they should expect to be away from their homes “for a significant period of time.”
Paramedics say there is a large amount of particulate matter in the area and first responders are wearing masks but officials said the public is not in danger.
Fire Chief Tim Beckett said 50 firefighters and as many 15 paramedics were at the scene in the blast’s immediate aftermath. A search and rescue team was also called to the area.
Beckett said for now the scene is still too unstable for a thorough investigation to commence.
“We’re continuing to work the explosion scene,” he told reporters Tuesday evening. “We’re stabilizing the scene at this time.”
The Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office will be investigating the incident.
Displaced residents are being asked to register at the Burnhamthorpe Community Centre at 1500 Gulleden Drive so that officials can make sure people are accounted for. The community centre is being used as a point of first contact for those affected. The Red Cross and the Insurance Bureau of Canada are on site. Arrangements to retrieve pets and medications can also be made at the community centre.
Crombie said that residents can call 311 for information and assistance.
Peel police have also set up a dedicated hotline for those displaced by the explosion. Those affected by the blast can call 905-453-2121 ext. 1241 to register.
The next update is expected to come Wednesday morning at around 8 a.m.