An explosion in downtown Wheatley brings a building down to rubble. file photo by Kari Matheson. An explosion in downtown Wheatley brings a building down to rubble. file photo by Kari Matheson.

Wheatley Explosion: One person still in hospital, rubble starting to be cleared

Work has begun to clear the rubble from the site of an explosion in Wheatley as investigations continue into the cause of last week's blast and an ongoing gas leak.

Chatham-Kent Fire Chief Chris Case said their monitoring equipment was not picking up any gas readings at the site Wednesday morning. He said that has allowed workers to start carefully excavating some of the debris.

"The office of the Fire Marshal in conjunction with the technical experts and fire services are currently removing layer upon layer of the debris field to try and attain the origin and cause of the explosion," said Case.

Case said while the excavation work is underway, crews continue to spray water on the scene to keep the dust down and dissipate any gas that might be coming up from the ground.

According to Don Shropshire, Chatham-Kent's Chief Administrative Officer, there was still one person in the hospital Wednesday morning who was injured as a result of the blast last week Thursday. Shropshire said that patient was in stable condition and is being treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

He said 20 people were treated for injuries the day of the blast, and seven of them were initially sent to the hospital.

Since the blast on August 26, people from more than 100 households have received support. Officials said 13 families are being housed and officials are assisting local groups who are coordinating donations.

"We are in contact with the people who have been evacuated and are providing updates to staff who are providing case management support to them," said Shropshire, adding that if everything goes well, there will be a transition over the next few days that will "start moving towards the investigation of the source of the gas leak."

A number of community groups continue to provide support to the people displaced by the explosion with municipal officials adding that it is impossible for them to predict at this point how long it will take before everyone can return to their homes.

A reception centre at Wheatley Arena remains open for residents affected by the explosion who are looking for information regarding food, accommodation, and other emergency needs.

Community members have also set up a food hub and donation reception centre at the Talbot Trail golf course in Wheatley.

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