Toronto Fatal Explosion/fire
One body found, six more feared dead as officials comb explosion wreckage. Canadian Press Friday, April 25, 2003
TORONTO (CP) - Officials discovered the first of what they fear will be seven bodies early Friday after a natural gas explosion and fire in the city's west end that levelled a strip mall.
Firefighters combing the wreckage of the Thursday afternoon explosion and fire discovered a body just before 3 a.m.
"One victim has been found; nobody has been extracted from the building yet," Stephan Powell, district fire chief, said from the scene Friday.
The body remained in place overnight pending a careful examination and extraction during daylight hours. The individual's identity has not been released.
"It's a very dangerous and slow process. An investigation needs to take place and we don't want to miss anything," said Powell.
Six others believed to have been in the mall at the time of the sudden explosion are still missing.
Officials said the violence of the blast leaves little hope there will be any survivors.
"I believe it was a very quick and sudden thing," Powell said.
Four other people were sent to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries after the blast demolished the mall housing four retail businesses and five apartments.
Three of those victims were treated and released. A fourth was kept overnight for observation.
The blast levelled the building and also tore a hole in the side of two-storey home beside the complex. Several stores across the street had their windows blown out.
"It blew out windows across the street and up the road," said Powell. "It was a strong blast."
Fire crews managed to bring the ensuing fire under control by Thursday night.
Investigators expected to be on the scene in the coming days to continue their probe into the cause of the blast.
Recovery crews used a crane and heavy construction equipment to probe through the smoking piles in the city's west end.
Officials suggested that a construction crew working on the road may have struck a gas line, causing a leak into the basement of one of the buildings. However, a full investigation was under way Friday determine the exact cause.
"The cause, per se, is still under investigation. It's in the hands of the fire marshall's office," said Powell.
© Copyright 2003 The Canadian Press