Some 50 people were forced to leave their homes Sunday after an explosion at a plaza rocked Mississauga and ignited a fire that burned for nearly 24 hours.
The blast at a mixed-use commercial and residential plaza on Hurontario Street was felt for several city blocks shortly before 7:30 a.m.. Three people were taken to hospital for treatment, including a six-year-old boy.
About a third of the structure collapsed right away, while storefront windows on shops across the street were blown out. Another apartment building on the east side of Hurontario Street sustained substantial damage as well, and families living there were taken to an emergency shelter at a local community centre.
They have since been moved to a hotel, where the city will put them up until the building is repaired. Engineers have cleared the apartment complex as safe, but windows need to be replaced and the gas turned back on, according to Mississauga Fire Chief Tim Beckett.
"It could be a day, it could be two days," he told reporters at a morning news conference.
The initial blast damaged an aging natural gas line that then fuelled the subsequent fire. Enbridge crews had to excavate for several hours before they were able to reach the line.
"Sometimes it's safer to allow the gas to burn than to turn it off and let it dissipate into the air," said Beckett.
As a precaution, a nearby high school, T.L. Kennedy Secondary School, was closed on Monday. The school will remain closed Tuesday as Mississauga Fire and the Peel District School Board continue to consult with contractors to determine when students will be able to safely return.
Firefighters finally managed to extinguish the fire around 3:30 a.m. Monday. The extent of debris means that it could take time for crews to reach the epicentre of the explosion, which is necessary to investigate its origin.
The Ontario Fire Marshal is leading the probe, with assistance from Mississauga fire officials and Peel police.
"There's nothing criminal about the investigation at this time," said Sgt. Josh Colley, adding that anyone who might have video of the incident or valuable is asked to contact Peel police.
Hurontario Street remains closed to traffic between Dundas Street East and Hillcrest Avenue. However, pedestrians can reach businesses on Hurontario Street between Agnus Avenue and Dundas Street East.