Chemical fire at Vancouver’s port still burning; one third the size

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Photo: Straight.com

The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER: A chemical fire that led to an evacuation at Vancouver’s port and prompted a dozen people to show up at hospital emergency rooms was still smoldering Thursday, but officials said it was one-third its original size and the threat to public health appeared to have subsided.

A container containing a chemical called trichloroisocyanauric acid, used for disinfectant and bleach, caught fire at Vancouver’s port Wednesday afternoon, sending clouds of white smoke billowing over the city’s downtown.

That set off an evacuation followed by an order for people in the area to seek shelter, though that was lifted Wednesday evening. It also disrupted rush-hour commuter rail service.

The city’s fire department said 24 firefighters equipped with eight vehicles _ three of them aerial ladder trucks _ continued working at the site Thursday.

“It looks like they’re able to use some of their equipment to get readings on whatever chemicals may still be present,” said fire Capt. Carol Messenger.

Anna Marie D’Angelo of Vancouver Coastal Health said about a dozen people were treated at emergency rooms overnight for lung and eye irritation, but none needed to be hospitalized.

“People that are most at risk are people with underlying respiratory conditions like asthma,” she said.

“The medical health officer has said that those people should be monitoring their health (for) 24 hours. The rest of us, it’s just exposure risk.”

Port Metro Vancouver said a 100-metre exclusion zone remained in place around the site, keeping all but first responders using respiratory equipment a safe distance away.

The port had reopened and was operating normally, except for the terminal where the fire happened, owned by Dubai-based DP World, which remained closed, the port said.

DP World said in a news release that it would investigate the cause of the fire. The company said its emergency response team was working with authorities to monitor and contain the impact of the fire.

 

© 2015 The Canadian Press