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Refinery blast shakes city

UPDATE 10:45 a.m.

Irving Oil says all their employees and contractors have been accounted for after a massive oil refinery explosion that shook the historic port city Monday and sent flames and plumes of black smoke into the air.

Saint John Regional Hospital was treating two patients from the explosion, the local health authority confirmed Monday afternoon.

"Several contractors are being treated for non-life threatening injuries in relation to this incident," Irving said in a tweet.

Residents described feeling an explosion shortly after 10 a.m. AT, and said flames and smoke could be seen from a great distance from the refinery, on the city's east side.

One worker at the refinery, who didn't want to be identified, said the blast had been enough to knock him down.

"There was quite a shockwave when the blast happened," he said as he left with co-workers hours later.

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.

No flames were visible by 2:30 p.m. AT, with four separate sources of water being poured on the blaze. Ambulances could be seen coming and going, but without their emergency signals.

The employees said the explosion happened in an active part of the refinery, and not in a section currently undergoing a maintenance shutdown.


UPDATE 9:30 a.m.

Emergency measures officials say there were believed to be only "a couple" minor injuries from the massive oil refinery explosion that shook Saint John, N.B., this morning.

Geoffrey Downey of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization said none of the injuries were believed to be serious "at this point."

The explosion at an Irving Oil refinery on the city's eastern side set a fire and sent thick, black smoke pouring into the air.

Residents of the area described feeling an explosion shortly after 10 a.m., and noted that flames and smoke could be seen from a great distance.

A local hospital had issued an "orange alert," meaning it was preparing for a possible influx of patients, while the City of Saint John advised residents to shelter in place.


UPDATE 8:20 a.m.

Witnesses say there was an explosion at an oil refinery in Saint John, N.B., this morning.

Irving Oil says it is investigating a "major incident" at the refinery, but did not provide details.

Litsa Daeres, who lives nearby, says she heard a "loud bang" and felt her whole house shake shortly after 10 a.m.

Saint John resident Michael Steeves says he was driving about a kilometre away when he noticed the fire and thick, black smoke.

He says 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.

"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," Steeves said about an hour and a half later.

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.


ORIGINAL 7:30 a.m.

Irving Oil says a "major incident" happened at its oil refinery in Saint John, N.B., this morning.

The company did not provide details, but numerous photos and videos posted to social media show fire and a thick plume of black smoke coming from the refinery.

One Facebook user living nearby reported feeling a "bed-shaking explosion" at around 10:15 a.m.

Irving says on Twitter that they are "actively assessing the situation" and they will share more information when it becomes available.



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