UPDATE 3-Vancouver container fire shuts down port, some rail service

Wed Mar 4, 2015 10:14pm EST
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(Updates throughout with blaze now under control and details about response)

By Julie Gordon

VANCOUVER, March 4 (Reuters) - A large portion of Canada's biggest port was shut down on Wednesday after a chemical fire broke out amid numerous shipping containers piled up in a yard east of Vancouver's downtown core.

The toxic smoke forced local residents to take shelter inside, while workers at Port Metro Vancouver and in the surrounding area covered their faces with scarves as they streamed out of their offices.

By early evening, firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control and residents were allowed to leave their homes, though people were warned to stay away from the port.

"Smoke is lessening, but people are encouraged to stay away from the fire area," the City of Vancouver said on its official Twitter account.

With the fire still burning, it was unclear when operations would return to normal at the Port and surrounding businesses.

The blaze sparked a massive emergency response because the burning shipping container contained trichloroisocyanuric acid, a hazardous organic compound that can be an eye and skin irritant. There were no reported injuries.

Port Metro Vancouver evacuated its Centerm container terminal, which is operated by DP World Vancouver, and shut down all port operations on the south side of the Burrard Inlet, including a Canadian Pacific rail line and truck access to various port facilities.   Continued...