October 9, 2018
A massive oil refinery blast that shook historic port city of Saint John, N.B., Monday – sending flames and black smoke high into the sky but causing only four minor injuries — has left officials relieved it wasn’t far worse.
“We’re very grateful today — and being Thanksgiving, I think it’s appropriate,” Kevin Scott, Irving Oil’s chief refining and supply officer, told reporters at an afternoon briefing after a tense day. “Very fortunate they had only minor injuries.”
According to Canadian Press, Saint John residents described feeling an explosion at about 10:15 a.m. local time, at Irving’s refinery on the city’s east side.
“My whole house shook. I thought my furnace had exploded,” said Litsa Daeres, 34, who opened her curtains and saw the flames and thick, black smoke.
Scott said there had been a malfunction in the refinery’s diesel treating unit, where sulphur is removed from diesel fuel.
One worker at the refinery, who didn’t want to be identified, said the initial blast had been enough to knock him down.
“There was quite a shockwave when the blast happened,” he told Canadian Press as he left with co-workers hours afterward.
There were as many as 3,000 workers on the refinery Monday — but most of the facility was shut down for major maintenance, and nearly all of the workers were contractors working on the turn-around.
Scott said the unit was quickly shut down after the blast.