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One week later, Irving refinery remains a “hot zone”

October 15, 2018  

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A week after a fiery explosion at Canada’s largest oil refinery rocked the east side of Saint John, N.B., investigators say they have yet to examine the blast site because it remains a “hot zone.”

At least four workers received minor injuries on Oct. 8 as swirling flames and black smoke rose into the sky above the sprawling Irving Oil refinery, which produces more than 320,000 barrels of refined products every day.

According to Canadian Press, workers hit by the explosion reported hearing a loud hissing sound from a diesel treating unit before they were engulfed in a wall of fire.

WorkSafe NB, the Crown corporation that oversees the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, was called in to determine the cause of the blast.

“We haven’t been able to get right to the site yet,” an agency spokeswoman told Canadian Press Monday. “It’s still a hot zone.”

She said it remains unclear when the site will be safe to examine.

“From my understanding, as it’s a refinery, there’s chemical reactions at play,” she said, adding that witness interviews were still being conducted. “They’re still spraying foam from a distance…. We’re gathering all of the information that we normally would in the meantime.”

At the time of the explosion, there were as many as 3,000 workers at the refinery, many of them contractors performing maintenance. About 1,400 people typically work at the 315-hectare site.

Irving Oil did not respond to a request for an interview.

(Canadian Press)