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40 residents staying in hotel after explosion at CBRM seniors' complex

First responders at the scene of a possible explosion or structural failure on Reeves Street in Sydney, N.S.  (Erin Pottie/CBC - image credit)
First responders at the scene of a possible explosion or structural failure on Reeves Street in Sydney, N.S. (Erin Pottie/CBC - image credit)

Nearly 60 people living in a seniors' complex in Sydney, N.S., have been forced to leave following an explosion at the building, Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Amanda McDougall confirmed to CBC News.

"What we do know is that there was a significant amount of snow on the roof of the building that had compromised the lines from the propane tank into the building and unfortunately something ignited from within and there was an explosion," McDougall said Friday evening.

She added she's anticipating a full report from an inspector.

McDougall said one resident of the provincially run Silver Birch Manor is believed to have serious injuries. She said those who didn't have family to stay with were taken to a hotel with support from the Canadian Red Cross.

A release Saturday from the Cape Breton Regional Police confirmed that a woman was seriously injured and was taken to hospital.

Red Cross

Canadian Red Cross manager Gwen Jarabek said as of Saturday about 50 residents were registered with the organization and 40 were staying in a hotel.

She said some residents are staying with family and friends.

Jarabek said the Red Cross worked with regional housing to secure hotel rooms very quickly.

"The other piece that we immediately started helping with was access to medications, food and clothing," Jarabek said.

She said the work was being done in collaboration with the Salvation Army.

Continuing care for residents that need it was arranged through regional housing and Nova Scotia Health, Jarabek said.

The explosion happened around 4 p.m. on Friday. Photos from the scene show a large hole blown out of one side of the building.

First responders, including Cape Breton Regional Police, Fire and Emergency Services and EMO attended the scene.

The explosion comes as Cape Breton continues to dig out after the heaviest snowfall in the area in years.

4 calls regarding damaged propane lines

Chris March, the acting chief of the fire department, said this was the fourth call the department had this week regarding heavy snow loads damaging propane lines.

"The large amount coming off the roof, with the velocity of the fall, is causing damage to the lines," he said Saturday morning.

March recommended that people who have propane hookups to their home have them checked out by their provider if large amounts of snow have fallen on them.

"You don't wanna go digging around poking at it yourself," he said.

McDougall said she's concerned about other potentially compromised buildings in the area.

'We need the army here'

CBRM council called a local state of emergency after the snowstorm, which brought 150 centimetres of snow to parts of the island. A provincial state of emergency was not declared, and Premier Tim Houston suggested on Tuesday criticized the municipality's action."

Houston apologized for his comments soon afterwards.

McDougall said Friday's events showed that the danger of the historic snowfall hasn't passed — and the municipality needs help.

"We need the army here, quite frankly. This is critical when seniors' complexes are exploding," she said.

McDougall said a restaurant in Sydney, 7 by 7, posted photos to Facebook on Friday showing its ceiling caving in from the amount of snow on the roof. Prior to that, the local animal shelter had to vacate over fears its roof could collapse.

"We need exceptional supports right now to help us with this snow removal and investigations and inspections on structural integrity of buildings — all of it," she said.

"This is exactly why we called the state of local emergency. You know, we've been through these types of events before and ... it's not those immediate moments that are going to show the true depth of the impact of of the the emergency."

McDougall said many 311 calls to the municipality are from residents concerned about the amount of snow on their homes.

She said she had been contacted on Friday by federal and provincial cabinet ministers. She said she's expecting "tremendous amounts" of support coming in the next week.

"Everybody who can be is engaged right now," she said.

EHS was on scene at the seniors complex on Friday evening. One resident was seriously injured, according to an official with CBRM.
EHS was on scene at the seniors complex on Friday evening. One resident was seriously injured, according to an official with CBRM.

One resident was seriously injured, and nearly 60 people have been forced to leave the building, according to a CBRM official. (Erin Pottie/CBC)

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