Irving Oil says a “major incident” has occurred at its Saint John refinery, after reports of an explosion and fire on Monday morning.
Saint John police said they are responding to an incident that broke out around 10 a.m. AT. at the refinery, and are asking residents to avoid the area altogether. Nearby streets have also been closed, but no evacuations have been ordered for residents in the area.
“We can confirm that a major incident has occurred at our Saint John refinery this morning,” Irving Oil said on Twitter. “We are actively assessing the situation at this time and will share more information when available.”
The blaze has since died down, but people have been lining the streets all morning to catch a glimpse of the fiery building.
After the reported explosion, the Saint John Regional Hospital went into “code orange,” meaning the hospital is prepared for a possible influx of patients.
When CBC News asked New Brunswick’s Horizon Health Network whether any injuries have been reported, a spokesperson responded they are working on getting a response.
“Horizon’s Saint John Regional Hospital is on high alert and prepared to offer assistance following the explosion at the Saint John oil refinery,” Horizon said on Twitter.
Several photos on social media showed flames at the refinery. Fire officials were said to be aware of the situation.
Saint John Mayor Don Darling said on Twitter: “This is obviously a live event … when we know more, you’ll know more. Praying for the safety of all involved.”
Premier Brian Gallant tweeted that he has reached out to Darling.
Gallant went on to say the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization is engaging with the city and Irving Oil officials to assess the situation.
“On behalf of all New Brunswickers, our thoughts are with the workers affected and with the community of Saint John,” Gallant said.
Bob McVicar, a resident in the New Brunswick city, posted on Facebook that it felt like a “bed-shaking explosion.”
Residents across the city reported feeling the effects of the explosion.
Mark Melanson and Jocelyn Legassie were sitting at the Tim Hortons on Hickey Road, about three kilometres away from the refinery, when they heard a popping sound.
They looked outside the window and saw black smoke and flames exceeding the height of the stacks at the refinery.
Melanson said he has seen explosions like this on YouTube at oil refineries around the world, but never seen anything like this in Saint John.
“I’ve lived in Saint John for 30 years and this is the first time I’ve seen something like this happen here.”
Rob Beebe felt the explosion from his apartment on Martha Avenue, a few streets over from the refinery.
“We felt the entire building move as if it wobbled,” Beebe said.
When he walked outside, he noticed black smoke coming from the refinery, so he hopped into the car, drove down the corner and saw fire about 30 metres high.
“We’re sitting here and watching it burn right now,” he said. “It’s getting larger.”
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