Quebec: 1 day, 2 dead, 3 fires

Authorities are investigating three fires that have erupted in Quebec since yesterday while medical teams deal with serious injuries from two of them.

The worst of the fires, a violent explosion that killed two people at an industrial plant near Sherbrooke, Que., resulted in four people being treated at a Montreal burn unit. The incident, which sent 19 to hospital and destroyed a biotech plant, has prompted the city to lower flags to half-mast.

One of the injured is in critical but stable condition, with burns to 90 per cent of the body. Three others are seriously burned but are in stable condition. Some of these victims inhaled hot vapour and sustained burns to their respiratory tract.

A huge explosion, which could be heard for kilometres, was followed by a series of smaller blasts and a fire, which destroyed a production plant belonging to Neptune Technologies & Bioressources. Amid the wreckage, a terrified survivor was found later, hiding in the rubble.

The company produces health products, such as Omega-3, derived from marine life. Company shares plunged more than 10 per cent after the explosion and trading was halted Friday.

It's still unclear what caused the fire.

A similar but smaller incident occurred nearby hours later, at a Bombardier Recreational Products complex also in the Eastern Townships.

Two people there sustained serious burns.

Quebec provincial police said the blast occurred just after midnight and appeared to come from a lab in the facility's research centre in Valcourt.

They said the victims were a 38-year-old employee and a 54-year-old security guard. Both were taken to a hospital in Quebec City and remained in a medically induced coma early Friday.

The province's workplace health and safety commission was investigating.

The BRP facility produces Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Sea-Doo jet skis and Can-Am all-terrain vehicles. It is located about 40 kilometres west of Sherbrooke, where the massive blast occurred.

Meanwhile, an investigation into a spectacular Montreal blaze was being transferred to the local police. Nobody was injured in that fire, which occurred in an unfinished condo project in Old Montreal.

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