A house exploded in Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter on Sunday night.
Emergency crews were called to the 300 block of Pine Street at 8:20 p.m. on Feb. 27 after a structure exploded next to St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church. The explosion could be felt kilometres away.
Nanaimo RCMP, in a press release, said the home was “reduced to rubble.”
“I saw a huge fireball, debris flying everywhere, and after that everything died down,” said witness Andrew Johnson, who arrived at the church moments before the explosion. “Power went out, came back on.”
He and other witnesses said multiple people appeared to have suffered injuries in the incident. RCMP said a neighbouring home sustained “significant damage from the blast” and two of that home’s residents were transported to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital for treatment after being struck by shards of broken glass.
Homeowners nearby were asked to vacate their homes while utility crews investigated and RCMP at the scene were telling people to stay back due to a gas leak. The RCMP release said officers at “detected a strong odor natural gas coming from the debris.”
RCMP added that investigators believe the home was vacant.
Father Harrison Ayre, pastor of St. Peter’s, said staff were just arriving at the church at the time of the incident, prior to the shelter opening for the night.
“I hope everyone’s OK,” he said. “This probably could have been a lot worse, too. It’s surreal, still.”
B.C. Emergency Health Services said six people were hurt and two needed hospital treatment but their injuries were considered superficial.
Natural gas provider Fortis B.C. said in a social media post that the home’s natural gas meter was damaged and gas was blowing from it, but crews capped the leak. Fortis said there has been no confirmation of the cause of the blast, but an investigation is underway.
“Our crews were on site, they did do additional tests and they did monitor the system in the area. There were no concerns in the area,” said Lauren Lea, spokesperson for Fortis B.C. “For the local residents there … they were making sure that there were no leaks in the area. Nothing in the system was leaking.”
Huge explosion and bright light flash seen in Harewood, Nanaimo neighbourhood at approximately 8:30 pm.
A thread pic.twitter.com/Ge3qYRScM3
— Mandy Moraes Moon (@newmoon_reports) February 28, 2022
-files from Mandy Moraes/Black Press Media and The Canadian Press