Explosion and fire at Canada's largest oil refinery

Explosions rock Canada’s largest oil refinery as energy company confirms ‘major incident'

Irving Oil refinery in Saint John New Brunswick FILE

Residents of the area described feeling an explosion shortly after 10 a.m., and noted that flames and smoke could be seen from a great distance.

Oil refineries and other large industrial operations that are surrounded by residential communities need to work harder to ensure safety and protect their own bottom lines, multiple experts say. Health and environmental authorities, along with the refinery itself, were opposed, but city council approved the development in 2016.

Nick Hynes says he was not long off of the night shift when the blast occurred.

"There was quite a shockwave when the blast happened", he said as he left with co-workers hours later.

"Our house actually shook, our windows, we could feel the direct impact of the explosion in our house … it didn't take very long to discover, of course, that a very heavy black plume was coming from the site", he said.

Emergency measures officials say there were believed to be only "a couple" minor injuries from the massive oil refinery explosion that shook Saint John, N.B., this morning. It produces 300,000 barrels a day of gasoline, heating oil and jet fuel, exporting half of it to the Northeast through terminals that include Searsport, Portland and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

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Nate Guimond, 36, told the AP he was doing house repairs when he saw smoke. Nearby streets have also been closed.

Mark Melanson and Jocelyn Legassie were sitting at the Tim Hortons on Hickey Road, about three kilometres away from the refinery, when they heard a popping sound.

He made a decision to drive by the refinery, and said he was nearby when he felt the vibrations of what he assumed must be a second explosion.

'We are actively assessing the situation at this time and will share more information when available'.

When he drover down the corner he saw flames shooting into the sky about 100-feet high.

In an earlier tweet, the company characterised the incident as a major one.

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