One dead and five missing after Merivale Road blast

One person is dead and five others are still missing after an explosion at a building in south Ottawa on Thursday.

The explosion and major fire at Eastway Tank on Merivale Road sent three people to hospital, two of them in critical condition. One of those people has since died, police said Friday morning.

Police say four men and one woman are still missing. It is believed they were in the building when the explosion occurred.

Police are not releasing their identities, but say their families have been notified.

“It is not believed that any survivors will be found,” said Insp. Frank D’Aoust told reporters on Friday.

Recovery efforts are underway at the heavily damaged site, he said, along with an investigation into the causes of the explosion and fire.

On Thursday evening, police were asking all employees and families to report to a reunification center at Woodvale Pentecostal Church on Greenbank Road. Family members could be seen comforting each other outside.

Emergency services remain at the scene Friday morning. The Ministry of Labour, the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office and the Coroner’s Office are all investigating.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson tweeted his “heartfelt condolences” to the family of the deceased employee and asked residents to pray for the families of the five missing employees.

“No words can take away the stress and devastation as these people await news from loved ones and friends,” Watson tweeted. “My sincere thanks to our first responders for their tremendous efforts to save lives and contain the fire under very difficult conditions.”

“I thought it was an earthquake”

Flames and black smoke could be seen coming from the commercial building on Merivale Road around 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Ottawa Fire Department officials said 911 callers said they heard an explosion before seeing flames shooting 15 meters through the roof of a structure.

Com. Tim Tierney said he was visiting a City of Ottawa facility a few feet from the building when the fire broke out.

“Actually, at first I thought it was an earthquake. The ground was shaking, then suddenly, a few seconds later, suddenly I heard the bang,” Tierney told Newstalk 580 CFRA on Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron.

Three people in the building were taken to hospital. One has since been released from hospital and the other is in serious but stable condition, police said on Friday.

A firefighter was also treated for minor injuries.

Crews brought in heavy equipment Thursday night to help put out the fire. Acting Ottawa Fire Chief Paul Hutt said there was no danger to area residents.

“As we put out the fire, there is a dripping of water that occurs because we put water on the fire. I want to assure residents that there is no worry – we have our HAZMAT team on scene,” Hutt said Thursday.

According to the company’s website, Eastway Tank, Pump & Meter Ltd. is a custom manufacturer of tank trucks for the North American and international markets.

“I hear a loud noise”

Witnesses reported hearing a loud “bang” before the fire started.

“I was serving a customer, I had just finished with her and I heard a loud bang. Then I know there’s a really big cloud of black smoke,” said Jesse Headland, who works near the Francis Gas Bar.

“It goes ‘yay high’ and finally I see flames hiding behind the truck. Probably the biggest thing I’ve seen in my nine years working here.”

Amanda Fung is the owner of the Country Place Chinese restaurant near the scene of the fire.

“I’m sitting eating my lunch and smelling smoke. When I went outside to look through the window outside, I saw a lot of big flames.”

– with files from Tyler Fleming and Jackie Perez, CTV News Ottawa

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