UPDATE: Explosion in Wheatley injures several, brings building to rubble

An explosion in downtown Wheatley brings a building down to rubble. BlackburnNews.com file photo by Kari Matheson.

An explosion at the site of a hydrogen sulphide leak has destroyed at least one building and severely damaged others in Wheatley Thursday evening.

At around 6 p.m., Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) said crews were called to the blast on Erie Street and Talbot Road East.

Following the explosion, the area was evacuated by police and the public was asked to avoid the area.

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent confirmed Thursday evening that three people were taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The explosion happened near where a hydrogen sulphide leak was first discovered back in early June and again in July on 15 Erie Street North. Both leaks prompted an evacuation order and declarations of a state of emergency.

Hydrogen sulphide is a naturally occurring gas that comes from deep in the earth and can be toxic and flammable.

“Gas monitoring devices placed at the site indicated the presence of gas at approximately 4:30 p.m., setting off alarms and activating a 911 call,” a release from Chatham-Kent read. “First responders had evacuated the buildings closest to the alarm and were in the process of evacuating a wider area when the explosion occurred.”

Prior to the incident, BlackburnNews.com received reports that fire crews were observed in the area at around 5:45 p.m.

According to Wheatley resident Kari Matheson, the explosion could be felt from several blocks away. Matheson added the effects from the blast were so strong she briefly wondered if a vehicle may have crashed into her home.

“I could smell the fumes,” Matheson told Blackburn News. Matheson also said fire crews may have been in the area as early as 11 a.m. Thursday.

The municipality has opened the Wheatley Arena for those who have been evacuated.

Further updates on the situation will be provided Friday morning.