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1 dead, 5 missing and presumed dead in Ottawa explosion and fire

Ottawa police say one person is dead and five are unaccounted for after Thursday’s explosion and fire at a business on Merivale Road.

The five missing people are presumed dead.

Firefighters received multiple 911 calls Thursday around 1:30 p.m. about a large fire at 1995 Merivale Rd. between Cleopatra Drive and Slack Road, in the city’s Nepean area. Witnesses reported hearing large bangs coming from the site.

Ottawa police Insp. Frank D’Aoust said Friday one of the people taken to hospital died Friday morning, another was in serious and stable condition, and a third had been released.

He said four men and a woman who police believe were at the building at the time of the explosion are missing and police don’t believe they survived. No names have been released.

WATCH | Major fire, explosion in Ottawa:

Video shows column of smoke from Merivale Road explosion, fire

20 hours ago

Duration 0:28

Ottawa firefighters said they were battling a three-alarm fire on Merivale Road in Nepean Thursday afternoon. 0:28

When fire crews arrived at the burning building Thursday afternoon, employees had already started making their way out.

Crews battling to control the fire were told of the two patients taken to hospital with serious burns and that five employees were unaccounted for, according to firefighters with knowledge of the emergency response who spoke to CBC News on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

A “family reunification centre” was operating Thursday evening at the nearby Woodvale Pentecostal Church.

D’Aoust said friends and family of the missing had been notified and offered support by police.

Acting Ottawa fire Chief Paul Hutt said a regional distress line is taking calls and Ottawa’s mayor sked residents to pray for the families of the missing.

Police on Friday said the fire was at a business.

The address is home to Eastway Tank Pump & Meter Ltd., a manufacturer of custom tank trucks. Eastway has not returned calls from CBC.

Many sides to the investigation

Different agencies are leading different parts of the investigation into what police described as a heavily damaged site that will take time to examine.

The province’s fire marshal is taking the lead to determine the cause of the explosion and fire, according to a police news release.

The Ottawa police’s arson unit is leading the police investigation, D’Aoust said, and acting for the coroner’s office.

Officials did not take questions and so it’s unclear if arson is suspected, or if that unit is being chosen to lead because of its expertise in fire investigations.

Fire officials said they’d been taking air quality samples and corralling any contaminated water running off from the scene of the fire. They’ll keep providing logistical and safety support, police said.

The ministries of environment and labour were also called to the site.

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