Oil refinery explosion shakes Saint John, but no reports of serious injuries

Photos and videos show fire and a thick plume of black smoke coming from the refinery

A massive explosion at an Irving Oil refinery shook Saint John, N.B., Monday morning, sending flames and plumes of black smoke into the air, but emergency measures officials said no major injuries had been reported.

“There was, I believe, a couple minor injuries at this point, but nothing serious,” said Geoffrey Downey, spokesperson with the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization.

Residents described feeling an explosion shortly after 10 a.m. AT, and said flames and smoke could be seen from a great distance.

Litsa Daeres, 34, who lives nearby, said she just started preparing Thanksgiving dinner when she heard a “loud bang.”

“My whole house shook,” she said. “I thought my furnace had exploded.”

But then Daeres opened her curtains and saw the flames and thick, black smoke, she said.

At 1:45 p.m. AT, flames were still visible, with four separate sources of water being poured on the blaze. Ambulances could be seen coming and going, but without their emergency signals.

The refinery is near several residential neighbourhoods on Saint John’s east side, about five kilometres from the city core, known as Uptown.

“Praying for the safety of all involved,” Saint John Mayor Don Darling said on Twitter.

Downey said no evacuation orders had been issued, but there was an “order to shelter in place for anyone living in the direction of the plume.”

A local hospital said it had issued an “orange alert,” meaning it was preparing for a possible influx of patients.

Irving Oil did not provide any details about the incident, saying it would release more information when it became available.

According to the Irving Oil web site, the refinery produces more than 320,000 barrels of “finished energy products” every day, with more than half going the U.S. northeast.

“We refine a wide range of products for our wholesale and retail markets, including gasoline, diesel, heating oil, jet fuel, propane and asphalt,” the website says.

“Our refinery opened in 1960, on a 780-acre site and has been upgraded throughout the years. We have also led in the development of cleaner and more efficient fuels and processes.”

Nate Guimond, 36, said he was doing house repairs when he looked outside and saw the scene.

“There was thick, pitch black smoke mixed with white smoke,” said Guimond. “I heard a rumbling, roaring sound.”

He decided to drive by the refinery, and said he was nearby when he felt the vibrations of what he assumed must be a second explosion.

Michael Steeves, who lives in Saint John, said he was driving about a kilometre away when he noticed what was happening at the refinery.

“From where I was, you could see flames — I would expect they were about a hundred feet in the air — and you’ve got a huge plume of black smoke,” he said about an hour and a half later.

He said he saw hundreds of residents watching the situation unfold from a distance.

Saint John Police tweeted that they were responding to the incident, and asked people to stay away from the area. Several streets have been closed down.

Steeves said the incident reminded him of a similar event in the late 90s, when the same refinery suffered a similar explosion which left one person dead.

“Just seeing the clouds, and what they’ve got closed off, it just seems to be a pretty similar level of event,” he said.

Irving said on Twitter that the company is “actively assessing the situation” and will share more information when it becomes available.

“On behalf of all New Brunswickers, our thoughts are with the workers affected and with the community of Saint John,” Premier Brian Gallant said in a tweet.

— With files from Alex Cooke in Halifax and Alanna Rizza and Nicole Thompson in Toronto.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

WATCH: Canada Winter Games are finally here

Final leg of torch relay kicked off at Fort Normandeau

Red Deer man loses car after being caught twice driving with suspended licence

The Ponoka Integrated Traffic Unit ticketed the man in December and on Valentine’s Day

WCPS looks to its schools and communities for new mission, vision, values and beliefs

WCPS’s Board looks to students, and staff in advance of larger community engagement

Ponoka H&R Block celebrates 45 years of business in town

The company president stopped by for a visit to congratulate the Ponoka branch for its longevity

Couple marries in Ponoka after 65 years apart

The couple were born in Scotland and went to the same school and dated before his family moved

Fashion Fridays: Up your beauty game

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Red Deer College transforms into Athletes’ Village

Red Deer College’s campus will be home for the athletes during the 2019 Canada Winter Games

Alberta minor hockey team, slammed for Indigenous dance video, forfeits season

Parents say season was too dangerous to finish because the team has been threatened

Trump officially declares national emergency to build border wall

President plans to siphon billions from federal military construction and counterdrug efforts

Alix resident captures beams of light near Lacombe

Lacombe, Blackfalds, Red Deer photos have since gone viral around the world

Father to be charged with first-degree murder in Amber Alert case

11-year-old Riya Rajkumar was found dead in her father’s home in Brampton, Ontario

January home sales were weakest since 2015, average national price falls: CREA

CREA says the national average price for all types of residential properties sold in January was $455,000

Wilson-Raybould’s cabinet move due to departure from team: Trudeau

Jody Wilson-Raybould suddenly quit the cabinet this week, but Trudeau isn’t saying

Single on Valentine’s Day? Don’t worry, we got you

A round up of some of the funny memes out there for singles this Valentine’s Day

Most Read