August 10, 2008 8:40 AM   Subscribe

A large series of explosions erupted this morning from a welding chemical storage facility in North York (a suburb of Toronto) at approximately 4am EST. The highway 401, North America's busiest, has been closed in sections, and thousands of local residents are still being evacuated, with several of them injured. Police and fire officials are currently not sure of the possibility of further explosions and are taking precautionary measures. The whole situation has produced some apocalyptic-looking pictures.
posted by tehloki (38 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Here is a map of the evacuation area for any mefites concerned about exploding.
posted by tehloki at 8:44 AM on August 10, 2008

Man, that looks eerie, but I think it's the fact that it's still dark out that's lending the weight to the Apocalyptic nature of the photographs. Maybe in the morning things would've improved and it won't seem as devastating. (I hope everyone gets out alright)
posted by hadjiboy at 8:51 AM on August 10, 2008

Whoa. That is stunning. I hope everyone is okay...apocalyptic for sure.
posted by funnygrrl at 8:55 AM on August 10, 2008

Wow, that video is amazing. I'm moving to North York to go to YorkU in a couple of weeks. Hope everyone makes out alright.
posted by tomcochrane at 8:56 AM on August 10, 2008

As seen on AskMe.

Best wishes to everyone in the area. Scary stuff.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:06 AM on August 10, 2008

For those only looking for giant spectacular fireballs, 1:50 or so in the "produced" youtube link will deliver.
posted by tehloki at 9:13 AM on August 10, 2008

yikes - really scary looking. I hope there were no fatalities or serious injuries - it will be miraculous if not, the explosion was so big. Hope all our Toronto area mefites are ok.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:13 AM on August 10, 2008

For propane explosions, nothing beats this.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:16 AM on August 10, 2008


The explosion at around 1:50 into the YouTube video is simultaneously horrifying and incredible. It made me think of Cloverfield.

Hope everyone's ok, although I'm sure there are plenty of people who are definitely not ok right now.
posted by kbanas at 9:17 AM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also - and this just shows that you can never subdue the geek in me, no matter how serious the situation - when did they add the ability to tag YouTube videos like that? I've never seen that before.
posted by kbanas at 9:19 AM on August 10, 2008

So far, there are reports of minor injuries (burns, cuts), but one person is reported missing. I would think that there is a good (that is, awful) chance that workers at the plant could have been badly hurt or killed.

I live 4 miles due south of the site and sleep with my window open, but I don't remember hearing anything at all, even though people south of me heard it as extremely loud, unbelievable thunder.
posted by maudlin at 9:32 AM on August 10, 2008

Man, do Canadians need training on how to hold a video camera. Frigging shakey-cam footage is enough to make a person seasick.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:14 AM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

whoa. That explosion at 1:50 was really scary. You can hear the crowd first amused, then awed but still amused and then afraid. Then really afraid.

Here's a clip of the explosion at its biggest, taken from saejinoh's original video.

The AskMe is funny-not-so-funny in retrospect.

Census figures for the area suggest that more than 12,000 people live in the affected zone....Forces 1-Mile Radius Evacuation. What a disaster. It's astonishing there haven't been many more deaths. Hopefully the fires are almost out. Condolences to the families and friends of those who did die.
posted by nickyskye at 10:19 AM on August 10, 2008

That was quite the BLEVE, quonsar.
posted by scruss at 10:22 AM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

five fresh fish: you should film so well when you're dragged out of bed at 4am by an EXPLOSION.
posted by tehloki at 10:43 AM on August 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


I hope everything turns out ok.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 10:51 AM on August 10, 2008

Blimey. What an awful way to wake up.
posted by WPW at 11:01 AM on August 10, 2008

Previously (the Dallas one). Dallas didn't have the shock-wave fireball but man it just went on and on with canon-balls flying into interstate traffic.
posted by stbalbach at 11:12 AM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

It looks like the 401 isn't completely closed anymore. There are some cars headed eastbound at Yonge. And by "some" I mean three or four within sight of the traffic camera at this point. Perhaps they're letting some eastbound traffic on.
posted by oaf at 11:37 AM on August 10, 2008

I'm shocked that only one person seems to be unaccounted for, that no one has been reported as dead. Oh... A firefighter at the scene is apparently showing no vital signs. I hope they can revive him.
posted by zarah at 11:46 AM on August 10, 2008

To quote my nephew: Wowee-wee-whoa.

On another note, I enjoyed how the obscenities were captioned in the video linked by quonsar.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 11:48 AM on August 10, 2008

Was listening to details of this on the radio this morning. Residents were asking the same thing, odinsdream.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:10 PM on August 10, 2008

Just heard about this on the radio, but the radio reports didn't capture the scale and, well, horrifyingness of the explosions on the video. I hope they were able to safely evacuate as many people as possible.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:47 PM on August 10, 2008

What was it, two tanker loads? The site doesn't even look like a tank farm. Looks like a small distribution facility that you'd find in any city.

At least it wasn't acetylene. My grandfather told stories of the mayhem that went on at BOC's acetylene plant in Cricklewood during the war. Let's just say that the Luftwaffe weren't entirely responsible for all the "bombs" that fell in that neighbourhood ...
posted by scruss at 12:52 PM on August 10, 2008

Sad update: Firefighter dies after propane blaze
posted by Adam_S at 1:56 PM on August 10, 2008

Giant spectacular fireballs are wonderful & terrifying. I was once sitting out in the bay, waiting for my race to come up in a rowing regatta, when some poor soul accidentally sparked a great big chemical storage tank on the waterfront - the ball of flame seemed to be a hundred metres across, and was followed with a massive column of the foulest black smoke.

We rowers were sitting out there on the water, watching the spectacle & thinking "wow, that was intense!" and "I sure hope a chunk of metal doesn't fall out of the sky onto my head!"
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:34 PM on August 10, 2008

A few years ago, there was a fireball explosion outside my condo. I immediately hid behind of my walls and then called 9-1-1. Even though tons of people came out on their balconies to see what it was and it was clear that 3 people had been electrocuted, the fire department told me I was the only one who made a phone call. I wonder how many people thought to call 9-1-1 in this situation. Of course, you'd think the authorities would notice something like this scene in Toronto.
posted by acoutu at 2:53 PM on August 10, 2008

I was woken up by it last night. Thought it was thunder, but then heard no more. My dad down in the States called to ask me about it. Apparently it was on U.S. stations before it was here.
posted by gman at 3:57 PM on August 10, 2008

I know of at least three people who called 9-1-1 to report it. Two were driving home from late shifts, the other lives in the area (and is safe).
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:08 PM on August 10, 2008

Two days earlier, Jessica Arciero had voiced concerns to her mother that the family should consider moving. They had lived in the area for 16 years. Ms. Arciero said the plant was built here approximately four years ago.

"That shouldn't be there," her mother said of the plant, adding that their neighbor -- who she found on a bus this morning -- had regularly complained to the city.

"It should be isolated," said her son.

posted by mecran01 at 4:34 PM on August 10, 2008

Sweet merciful crap. I live in East York, so I wasn't anywhere near earshot, but a friend who lives in High Park called me at 4am and asked if I'd heard the explosions. She can be a bit of a wuss, and my neighbourhood was getting a bit of a drizzle, so I made fun of her for being afraid of ordinary thunder. Boy, was I ever wrong.

For a blast that big, I'm amazed that the casualties are so few. Thank goodness.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 5:13 PM on August 10, 2008

I live about a block Northwest of the evac zone, and I heard the blasts, assumed they were thunder and went back to sleep. I had no idea anything was amiss until I tried to leave town and couldn't get to the highway.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:14 PM on August 10, 2008

The CBC had a call in show on this for most of the afternoon, pre-empting Cross-Country Checkup. What got to me were the number of people living in my neighborhood (Bloor and Christie) who insisted that they were woken by the blasts, about 12 KM away. Apparently, windows rattled, the earth shook, the sky was bright orange and half the fire engines in the city roared up Dufferin, twelve blocks away.

I slept soundly through the whole thing. If there's ever an actual air raid, I'm doomed to fiery immolation.
posted by jrochest at 11:28 PM on August 10, 2008

So has everyone in Canada starting freaking out over the possibility of this being terrorists yet, or is that just an American thing?
posted by Legomancer at 4:53 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

No, that sort of thing is pretty much confined to south of the border.

Besides, as a terrorist attack it's pretty pants. Toronto is teeming with excellent targets with little to no security. Coordinated suicide bombers on trains at Yonge & Bloor, St George, Eglinton, Union stations at rush hour would put the subway out of commission for weeks, grinding the city to a virtual halt. Security at Queen's Park (provincial legislature) is a joke. Suicide bombers in the Eaton Centre. Huge concentration of major hospitals on University Ave, zero security. The CNE. I could go on, but I'm starting to disturb myself.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:28 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

C'mon, it's gotta be either a terrorist attack or a monumental fuckup. Either way, upping the Terror Threat Level is obviously the right move.
posted by ryanrs at 6:19 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

About 6 months ago, I was driving south on I-95, going to visit my parents in Jacksonville. I was just south of Darien, in a swampy, marshy area, and was looking around, enjoying the special brand of "nothingness" that characterizes a lot of the land that makes up the south-eastern US (my grandfather used to call this kind of grassy, palmetto-y, scrub-oaky land "the land that holds the world together," i.e., it doesn't do anything itself, just keeps the really important parts of the earth from dissolving into space).

ANYWAY, I was shifting in my seat, starting to think about when I would ever get to Jax, when suddenly "KABOOOOOM!" Jacksonville completely exploded. It was obviously an INCREDIBLY BIG explosion because, as far away as it was, it generated a huge orange pillar of fire and a giant mushroom cloud. And it was obviously many, many miles up the road because, well, I was still alive.
“Holy shit!” I said to the empty car, “What was that?”
Obligingly, the music on the NPR station abruptly cut off and a lady’s voice popped on to tell me that a chemical factory had exploded in North Jax and had obliterated a couple of blocks, killing 4.

Next time, remind me to tell you about the time I was driving on 368 in Miami and saw a huge plane go down on Milam Dairy Road.
posted by staggering termagant at 8:31 AM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

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