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‘Large explosion’ rocks Mississauga strip mall, sending three to hospital

Posted on 14 February 2018 by admin

The Sunday morning blast levelled several shops in a strip plaza near Dundas St. W. and Hurontario St. and a nearby residential building was evacuated. Three people, including a child, were taken to hospital.

A family was rescued from the roof of a collapsed building early Sunday morning after an explosion rocked a Mississauga neighbourhood, levelling several stores in a strip plaza.

The blast, described as a “large explosion” by Mississauga’s fire chief, blew the windows out of businesses on the other side of Hurontario St., north of Dundas St. W., and caused damage to a nearby apartment building. Dozens were evacuated from homes in the area.

About half of the plaza was flattened.

Although police initially reported that the explosion was in a commercial building, responders quickly became aware that some residents lived on the second floor of the plaza at the back of the building.

Tim Beckett, Mississauga’s fire chief, said his crews respond to commercial and residential incidents with the same urgency and that the first trucks were on the scene within three minutes of the call coming in.

Although he acknowledged some miscommunication in initial reports, he said “it didn’t change the way operations would have proceeded. We would have sent the same number of people, same number of trucks.”

One family escaped from a unit near where the roof collapsed.

Zafar Ansari, who owns an accounting business in the plaza, said the father of the family pulled his wife and 6-year-old son onto the collapsed roof where they were rescued by fire crews. Police said the man was 39 and the woman 43.

All three were taken to hospital, where they were treated and released Sunday afternoon. Two other injured people, a 50-year-old man and a young child, were assessed by paramedics at the scene and not taken to hospital.

A Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) team was summoned in the late afternoon to assist in searching and assessing the collapsed building.

Beckett said that was just a cautionary measure.

Fire services did not believe anyone was still trapped in the rubble, which Beckett said is fortunate because “with the damage and the amount of water and the fire … (the) viability of a rescue, if there was somebody in there, is not possible.”

Speaking Sunday evening, Beckett said no one from the building was unaccounted for.

The cause of the blast was not immediately known.

Emergency crews rushed to the plaza just before 7:30 a.m. on Sunday. The severely damaged building is located next to Thomas L. Kennedy Secondary School. The Peel District School Board announced that the school would be closed on Monday.

Beckett said Mississauga’s fire marshal must wait to fully assess the fire because of a natural gas line that continued to burn.

Beckett said Enbridge Gas had a “large crew” tackling the problem and it was “safer right now to allow that gas to burn.”

Once Enbridge has isolated and blocked the damaged line, Beckett said fire crews would be able to put out the fire and get to work eliminating hot spots. Firefighters were to remain at the scene overnight.

Neighbours described the blast as feeling like an “earthquake.” Across the street, panes of glass were blown out of the windows of a health clinic and a health food store.

Lance Neve, an artist at Pleasure and Pain tattoo studio, a second-floor business in the plaza, stood behind the building, watching as firefighters worked to stop the blaze from spreading.

“My boss called me, tried to message me all morning,” he said. “I woke up to ‘Hey, the shop blew up.’ Not what I was expecting to hear.”

Neve said the shop is closed on Sundays and Mondays, and he had taken most of his expensive artwork out of the building already, but other pieces that he had spent hundreds of hours on remained inside, sealed and framed on the wall. He said “apparently the ceiling is collapsing now.”

Neve said the plaza has restaurants, barber shops and a dentist. There were nine street-level storefronts in the two-storey strip mall. There were businesses on the second floor as well.

Shawna Smoke, a Mississauga resident, said she felt the “rumble on her feet” while getting coffee at a nearby Tim Hortons.

“I live a five-minute walk from the explosion. My husband and kids woke up from the sound while at home. There are a lot of windows of businesses and apartments that are blown out,” Smoke said.

Images tweeted by Peel paramedics showed heavy smoke billowing from the area, with debris scattered along Hurontario St.

Police said 50 to 70 people were affected by the explosion when a nearby apartment building was evacuated. Buses were relocating residents who live in the immediate area, Beckett said.

Beckett said authorities had to determine if there was structural damage to the building before residents would be allowed to return home.

Even through the smoke, some bright moments shone through: a birthday crisis was averted when Peel paramedics threw an impromptu party in the back of an ambulance for a young girl named Viviana who had to evacuate her home with her family.

According to paramedic Joe Korstanje, who was supervising at the scene, the girl lived across the street from the explosion and had to leave all of her birthday presents behind when her building was evacuated.

Korstanje, along with other paramedics and police officers, staged their own celebration to make up for it. A cake and balloons were purchased from a nearby store, and Viviana was able to ring in her 8th birthday before heading to the community centre with her family.

A tweet shared by Peel Paramedics with the text, “Happy Birthday Viviana” showed the crowded but cosy celebration.

Mississauga Valley Community Centre is providing shelter for some of the displaced individuals. The Red Cross, Peel Human Services and the city’s emergency management team are assisting the residents and business owners who are directly affected.

“My thoughts and prayers are with those who were injured, their families, and those affected by the incident,” Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said in an email to the Star.

“More details will be available in the coming hours and days, but I want to thank Mississauga Fire, Peel Regional Police, Peel Paramedics and all first responders for their work on site today and their quick response to this incident.”

Hurontario St., near the site, was to remain closed until further notice.


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