Snowstorm-Linked Explosion Injures One, Causes Evacuation of Seniors Residence in Cape Breton, NS

SYDNEY, N.S. – A massive storm that brought 150 centimetres of wet, heavy snow to Cape Breton’s largest municipality led to an explosion at a seniors residence that seriously injured one person, according to Chris March, acting fire chief of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

It is believed that slabs of snow slid from the roof of the Silver Birch Manor and fell on fuel lines connected to three propane tanks alongside the building, which were linked to a backup generator, causing the explosion. Officials believe that as the propane spread, it encountered a source of ignition in the publicly owned building, setting off the blast and injuring the resident.

The snow’s weight, combined with mild temperatures causing melting, contributed to this incident, said March. Additionally, he expressed concerns about the threats created by the accumulation of snow, which still needed to be cleared from pathways, streets, and homes.

A spokeswoman for the Nova Scotia Provincial Housing Agency, which manages the building, stated that 59 people were evacuated, with 45 currently staying in a hotel and the remainder with their family. The agency is focused on relocating the residents and providing meals and access to other necessities.

Premier Tim Houston, while attending the party’s annual general meeting in Halifax, expressed that street clearing continues to be a priority in the cleanup. He also mentioned that assessing the snow on roofs is the next stage in dealing with the aftermath of the storm.

The provincial fire marshal, Doug MacKenzie, noted that the report on the cause of the accident will be relevant to future reviews of rules on how much distance must exist between fuel tanks and buildings. Meanwhile, March remains concerned about the possibility of more sliding snow and the need to have the massive snow banks gradually removed and roads widened.

As the investigation into the explosion continues, officials are working to prevent similar incidents in the future by assessing the current regulations and taking steps to provide additional protection. This report by The Canadian Press was first published on February 10, 2024.