Wheatley, Ont., still at risk after explosion that injured 20, officials say

After a gas explosion in Wheatley, Ont., that injured 20 people and destroyed two buildings Thursday, Chatham-Kent officials say the area remains at risk of another blast.

Province says it's been working with external consultant to determine source of the leak

Surveillance footage from a nearby store shows debris flying following the Wheatley gas explosion.

1 year ago
Duration 0:08
Doug Walker, owner of Walker Tetra Mechanical heating and cooling, has surveillance footage from his store that shows some of the impact from the blast.

After a gas explosion in Wheatley that injured 20 people and destroyed two buildings Thursday, Chatham-Kent officials in the southwestern Ontario municipality say the area remains at risk of another blast.

"It's unacceptable for the people of Wheatley to live in fear," said Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff in a call Friday morning that provided an update.

Canniff wants the Ontario government to find the source of the leak, saying the municipality can't investigate because toxic gas is still around the area the explosion. Chatham-Kent issued a news release Friday afternoon urging the government to "correct the issue."

"Gas is still present and leaking at the scene," Canniff said. "It is an unsafe area, and unstable."

In an emailed statement Friday evening, the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry told CBC News that since the emergency was declared on June 3, it has provided Chatham-Kent with "technical expertise and funding."

The ministry also said it "began working" with an expert external consultant in early August to "determine the source of the leak and to provide technical support (i.e. 24-hour monitoring and historical and industry expertise to the municipality)."

Officials are urging people to avoid the area of an explosion in downtown Wheatley, Ont., on Thursday evening because toxic gas continues to leak. (Chatham-Kent Fire Dept./Twitter )

It added it has funded round-the-clock monitoring of the site to see if there were any additional leaks. 

"A petroleum inspector also attended the site [Friday] to provide assistance to the Fire Marshal's Office as it investigates the cause of the explosion," the statement reads. 

Of 20 injured, 1 still in hospital

Around 6 p.m. ET, two buildings at the corner of Erie Street North and Talbot Road East in downtown Wheatley collapsed after the explosion. The town of 3,000 is about an hour east of Windsor. 

Municipal officials say hydrogen sulphide gas was detected at around 4:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon. 

Canniff said the immediate area was evacuated, and municipal staff were working to move more people out of nearby spaces when the explosion took place. 

WATCH: Mayor Canniff talk about wanting to see the province step up

Chatham-Kent Mayor says the province will direct what happens next

1 year ago
Duration 1:33
Darrin Canniff told CBC News that he's hoping the Ontario government 'steps up.'

Of those injured, 13 were released at the scene and seven were sent to hospital. Three were treated in hospital with non-life-threatening, severe injuries, and four were treated for moderate injuries not a danger to their lives. 

Three of the injured were municipal workers, according to officials. 

I'm quite angry that our firefighters continually return to save lives on three occasions whilst we still have this unknown risk.- Chris Case, Chatham-Kent fire chief

One of the municipal staff members remained in hospital Friday morning after having emergency surgery. The municipality's chief administrative officer, Don Shropshire, says the person is recovering well. 

Gas leak coming from abandoned well 

Officials say the gas is coming from an abandoned well in the area and it's the province's responsibility to investigate. 

Shropshire said the provincial ministry has created a working group to investigate gas wells across southwestern Ontario.

"We're asking the province to step up and take control," he said, adding Chatham-Kent doesn't have the authority to ask property owners to do the investigation. 

He added the municipality had a call with the ministry Thursday night. 

WATCH: Chief Case expresses his frustration with the situation

Chatham-Kent Fire chief says he's 'incredibly' frustrated

1 year ago
Duration 1:45
Chief Chris Case talks about putting his firefighters and the community at risk due to a 'lack of action.'

Chatham-Kent fire Chief Chris Case said they still don't know what sparked the explosion and need to investigate the area further. 

"We literally have a rubble pile with a poisonous, toxic, corrosive and explosive gas coming up from the floor, and I need someone to come and provide technical expertise about how we can stabilize the situation before we can go anywhere near that building," he said. 

"I'm quite angry that our firefighters continually return to save lives on three occasions whilst we still have this unknown risk, and we're still seeking someone to assist in ... protecting our community." 

Roads into downtown Wheatley were closed off Thursday evening as emergency personnel were trying to keep people away from the site of the explosion. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)


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