SAINT-ROCH-DE-L’ACHIGAN, Que. – Municipal officials say as many as four workers are missing after an explosion Thursday at a propane facility in St-Roch-de-l’Achigan, Que., north of Montreal.
Stephanie Therrien, deputy director general for the Montcalm regional municipality, said a search is underway because three or four employees are unaccounted for.
“Unfortunately, there are employees who are still missing,” Therrien said in an interview.
The explosion occurred at about 11:17 a.m. at Propane Lafortune, a well-known business in the community. Therrien said it was unlikely people were able to escape the violent fire that followed the explosion.
“There might have been witnesses who tried to get inside to help, but since the roof was collapsing, they had to come out as quickly as possible,” Therrien said.
Karine Lamarche, who lives near the site, said an explosion shook her home late Thursday morning.
“It was shaking, I thought something had fallen on the house,” she said. It was only later, when she got in her car to pick up her mail, that she rounded the bend toward Propane Lafortune and saw the aftermath.
“I saw the big smoke up in the sky, a lot of fire coming from the ground and going up in the air. There was a lot of black smoke,” she said.
Later, as she returned home, a security perimeter had been erected and some neighbouring homes were being evacuated.
Therrien said authorities established a one-kilometre evacuation zone around the site, and Quebec provincial police say evacuations are underway in the town, about 50 kilometres north of Montreal. The regional municipality said on Facebook that more explosions are possible because of the propane tanks on site and warned people to stay away.
Support was being provided in the basement of the St-Roch-de-l’Achigan church where citizens could seek shelter or mental health services.
Firefighters from the neighbouring municipalities of Rawdon, Ste-Julienne, St-Lin-Laurentides and Repentigny were called in to help combat the blaze.
Erik Lauzon, operations director for the Lanaudiere-Laurentides ambulance service, said ambulances are on site but have been unable to approach the scene because of the danger.
Quebec Public Security Minister Francois Bonnardel said on Twitter that his department is monitoring the situation and his thoughts are with the workers.
©2023 THE CANADIAN PRESS