7 homes destroyed in explosion that shakes London, Ont., neighbourhood

Seven houses were damaged and seven people were sent to hospital in London, Ont., after a vehicle drove into a house in the city’s east end, setting off an explosion and a large fire Wednesday night.

Police were called to a house on Woodman Avenue near Queens Avenue at about 10:40 p.m. ET to reports that a vehicle had struck a house.

About 15 minutes after a woman was arrested, the house exploded, spreading debris over a wide area and setting nearby homes on fire.

Police said Daniella Alexandra Leis, 23, of Kitchener, Ont., has been charged with impaired driving causing bodily harm and driving above the legal limit.

Residents confirmed to CBC News the following video showed the explosion:

“Nobody is missing and there have been no civilian injuries that have been reported,” Boland said. “It is remarkable.”

Acting Deputy Fire Chief Jack Burt said crews were dealing with multiple structure fires overnight and several blocks were evacuated.

“We also have a significant debris field from an explosion that actually goes over more than a block area at this point.”

Burt said more than 50 firefighters were at the scene at the height of the fire.

Here’s a breakdown of injuries from the fire:

  • Four firefighters were hurt. Three have since been released from hospital and one remains in hospital in stable condition.
  • Two police officers were also taken to hospital, but have since been released.
  • A civilian was taken to hospital. That person’s condition is not known

Neighbours quickly came together following the explosion, offering a place to sleep for those told to leave their homes. Others were circulating with water and coffee.

“I could see sparks exploding over the trees,” said Joanne Bishop, a resident in the area. “These are our friends and neighbours, so I think people are scared right now.” 

The explosion could be felt in homes blocks away and the sound carried across a large part of the city.

“There’s debris everywhere, windows are shattered. We watched the roof fly higher than the trees on the street. The sound was extremely loud. You could feel the explosion go right through you,” said witness Christina Curtis.

Approximately 100 homes on Quebec Street, Woodman Avenue and Charlotte Street, between Lorne Avenue and Dundas Street, have been evacuated, and the area remains cordoned off for investigation.

The city has set up an Emergency Operations Centre at 275 Boler Rd.

With so many people unable to go home, the City of London arranged for hotel rooms for dozens of families. It was still unclear how long the evacuation order would remain in place but some officials suggested it could be days.

“In my 20 years in the fire service, I’ve never seen an event of this nature,” said Burt.

He said the home where the explosion occurred has been “reduced to rubble” and nearby homes have extensive damage.

Could have been much worse

Burt said it was fortunate the area was evacuated when the gas leak was detected or “this could have been a very different story.

“We’re very fortunate that no civilians were injured as a result of what happened here last night.”

As of 8 a.m. ET Thursday, the fires were under control, and Burt said crews were working to extinguish active hot spots.

Mayor Ed Holder said the city has arranged accommodation for everyone who was evacuated from their homes.

“To all of those people that had to endure one of the most terrifying nights in their live, our hearts and prayers go out to them and to their families.”

Road closures in Old East Village

The City of London has announced the following closures:

  • Woodman Avenue between Lorne Avenue and Dundas Street.
  • Quebec between Lorne Avenue and Dundas Street.
  • Charlotte Street between Lorne Avenue and Dundas Street.
  • Lorne Avenue between Ontario Street and Quebec Street.
  • Dufferin Avenue between Ontario Street and Quebec Street.

Police are asking people to avoid the area at this time.

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