TransCanada Natural Gas Pipeline Explodes Forcing Evacuations
January 27, 2014, 3:00am

By CTV News

A natural gas pipeline exploded in southern Manitoba early Saturday morning, sending massive flames into the air and leading to the evacuation of five homes.

TransCanada Pipeline said in a statement that a fire broke out around 1:15 a.m. local time on the Canadian Mainline natural gas pipeline system.

Officials said they evacuated five homes near the community of St. Pierre-Jolys, located about 50 kilometres south of Winnipeg, only as a precaution. Police say there were no injuries or damage to homes and property in the area.

Manitoba Hydro has told local residents that they could be without natural gas service for several days as crews work on repairs.

The company says the pipeline has been shut down and roads leading to the site have been closed. Officials say the fire is steadily decreasing in size as staff work to slowly bleed off the line and burn any remaining natural gas.

Marc LaBossier, who lives about three kilometres away from the site of the explosion, told CTV Winnipeg that he was sitting in his house Skyping with his girlfriend when he heard a loud explosion.

“I looked in the kitchen and there was a glow, so not knowing what was happening, I thought something was on fire in the kitchen,” he said.

“I jumped out of the chair. When I got to the back sliding doors, I actually felt the wave, or whatever, from this thing, and I could see it raging in the background.”

LaBossier said the flames reached 500 to 600 feet into the air.

Soon after the explosion, LaBossier says police officials came to his home and asked him to vacate the property.

He loaded his dogs into his car and waited on the highway, along with several other cars.

LaBossier says he was allowed to return to his house shortly after 3:00 a.m.

John Funk, mayor of the town of Niverville, has told residents that gas service in the area would be shut off for at least several hours.

With temperatures dipping down to -18 degrees Celsius, officials are urging residents to use electric heaters to warm their homes, but to minimize their use as much as possible in order to avoid straining the grid.

RCMP and officials with the fire department and Manitoba Hydro remain at the scene of the explosion.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada and the National Energy Board are also investigating.

The cause of the fire has not been determined and officials say there is currently no cost estimate on the damage.