Thousands forced from homes after Toronto blasts

Sun Aug 10, 2008 4:45pm EDT
 
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By Mark Blinch

TORONTO (Reuters) - A series of explosions at a Toronto propane depot sent balls of flame soaring into the sky on Sunday and forced thousands of people from their homes.

One person was "unaccounted for," but officials were mostly relieved that the early morning explosion apparently caused only minor injuries -- eight people were treated in hospital.

The predawn explosions shattered doors and windows in nearby houses and sent a truck-sized propane tank blasting through the air to land in a business area some 100 yards (meters) away.

With fires still burning at the facility, police ordered people within a one-mile (1.6-km) radius to leave their homes, fearful that two large tanks of propane could still explode. By noon that danger had eased, although police could not say when the evacuation would end.

"Big balls of fire were falling down," resident Tony Testa told CP-24 Television. "I thought I was going to die. It was unbelievable. The house shifted. The front door -- it's a solid wooden door -- it's in pieces."

Amateur video on Canadian television channels showed an orange glow that rapidly grew into a fireball and then into billowing clouds of flames and smoke.

Fire officials said they focused on ensuring the site was safe and that the propane tanks were kept cool and vented.

Several thousand people, some of them elderly, live in the area, which is to the northwest of Toronto's city center.

The explosions also closed a 10-mile (16-km) stretch of one of Canada's busiest highways, the 401 expressway.

(Writing by Janet Guttsman, editing by Alan Elsner)

 
<p>Firefighters work to contain a fire caused by explosions at a propane facility in northern Toronto, August 10, 2008. A series of explosions at a Toronto propane depot sent balls of flame soaring into the sky on Sunday and forced thousands of people from their homes. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>