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Downtown Wheatley partially opens up after being closed since explosion last August

Downtown Wheatley is open for traffic again and life is starting to get back to normal for some after the area was closed down since the explosion last August.

Intersection once again open to traffic

Talbot Road in Wheatley at the intersection of Erie Street South is now open. A section remains fenced off. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The main intersection in downtown Wheatley is open for traffic again and life is starting to get back to normal for some after the area was closed down since the explosion last August.

Talbot Road and Erie Street South have reopened but a section of Erie Street North where the explosion occurred remains closed, with a fence surrounding that block of businesses.

For the owner of one now-reopened business, the Dollar Haven Discount store, being closed for nine months has been stressful.

"It's really hard to survive for the small business. It's not easy, but...safety is the first priority," said Khurshid Ahmed.

Khurshid Ahmed, owner of the Dollar Haven Discount store in Wheatley. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Customers are making their way back to the area — now able to get some of the essentials they need without a long drive.

"We're hoping everything comes back eventually," said Ron Shawn, a seasonal camper in Wheatley.

A gas leak is the suspected cause of the Aug. 26, 2021, which led to the collapse of two buildings at the corner of Erie Street North and Talbot Road East. Twenty people were injured. 

Many people and business were out of their properties for many months following the blast, though the evacuation zone has shrunk recently, allowing more people to return to the community.

One of the three wells in the evacuation zone has been plugged, while work continues on at least one of them.

The current evacuation zone in Wheatley, Ont., is outlined in purple in this map from the Municipality of Chatham-Kent. (Municipality of Chatham-Kent)

According to a news release from the municipality of Chatham-Kent, orders posted on businesses keeping them closed will be rescinded once water, electricity and natural gas have been restored and the building inspected by the building department.

The municipality says the inspections should be done within 24 hours of receiving the request.

with files from Jacob Barker

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