A home in a residential neighbourhood in northeast Calgary was destroyed on Monday morning in an explosion that left at least 10 people with serious injuries and surrounding properties badly damaged.
The Calgary Fire Department said the force of the explosion created “a large debris field” and several fires. Many of the injured were believed to have been inside the home when it blew up and were sent to various hospitals in the city, the department said. The cause of the blast had not been determined.
“Fire crews have been unable to access the source home at this time to search for any more patients due to structural instability,” it said in a news release early on Monday.
Kham Khounthavong, who lives two doors down from the single-family home that exploded, said her family was woken up by what felt like an earthquake. When she went outside, she could see the house was completely levelled and saw injured occupants stumbling outside – some bleeding, others with visible burns to their hands and feet.
“Everyone was so helpful, grabbing blankets and whatnot, covering them up,” she said, describing the burns as if someone had ripped super glue from their skin. “I just couldn’t watch. I just tried to cover them up. I think they were in so much shock.”
She said one man had collapsed in the middle of the road and was being helped by another neighbour. About five other occupants were huddled in a nearby garage, where they were given shoes and other necessities while waiting for paramedics to show up.
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Ms. Khounthavong said it felt like “forever” until the ambulances arrived, putting the injured into the back of their vehicles, some being administered oxygen. She did not know the residents of the home but had exchanged smiles and hellos in passing.
Adam Loria, a spokesperson for Calgary Emergency Medical Services, said all the people sent to hospital are adults. He said six people were in life-threatening condition and four received serious injuries, none of whom are children.
“It was quite the group effort, not only with EMS, to ensure all patients were cared for and transported in a timely fashion, but as well with our first responder partners Calgary police and Calgary fire,” Mr. Loria said.
Smoke was still coming from the flattened home on Monday afternoon, with dozens of first responders on the scene. Parts of the house, including roof tiles, insulation and large pieces of wood, were strewn across the street, including what looked like part of a fence on the windshield of a car parked in front and a mattress on the roof of a nearby home.
Onlookers were able to see through the front window to the back alley of one of the neighbouring homes, which appeared to have the left side of the structure blown out. Fresh snow that had fallen that morning was grey with soot. Yellow police tape cordoned off the area and residents in the immediate vicinity had been asked to leave.
Donna Hunt, who lives down the block, said her house shook just before 9 a.m. on Monday and a clock in her living room dropped from the wall. “It was a loud explosion and there was a huge fireball,” she said. “The black smoke was just unreal.”
She and her husband were sitting in their living room with large windows, which gave a direct view of the home that blew. She dialled 911 and, shortly after, said about 10 ambulances and fire trucks arrived. She said injured residents were put on stretchers and loaded into the emergency vehicles.
“It was really scary. You didn’t know what exploded. You didn’t know exactly where it was coming from,” said Ms. Hunt. “And there were so many ambulances. I knew then that there were so many people hurt.”
Power to the area was shut down until the early afternoon and workers were tasked with clamping the natural gas line.
Bobbie Puttick, who lives eight houses down from the explosion, said it happened after he left for work, but his children were home at the time.
“They felt the house rock and they came out and took a video right away,” he said. “It’s nuts to see the house gone, and to see the roof … across the street in the neighbour’s yard.”
With a report from The Canadian Press