Updated: Explosion and fire rock natural gas pipeline in southern Manitoba

ST. PIERRE-JOLYS, Man. – Residents of a southern Manitoba town have been told that a pipeline explosion could mean they’ll be without natural gas service for up to several days.

Myron Dyck, a spokesman for the Town of Niverville, says Manitoba Hydro has told community south of Winnipeg that service would be suspended while repairs were made.

It follows an explosion and fire at a TransCanada Pipelines valve site near St. Pierre-Jolys early Saturday morning.

The temperature in Niverville on Saturday afternoon was —18 C and Environment Canada was calling for even colder temperatures on Sunday and Monday.

Dyck says people in the town use a mix of gas or electricity to heat their homes, and that residents are being urged to conserve as much electricity as possible.

TransCanada says it has shut down the Emerson Lateral portion of the Canadian Mainline natural gas pipeline system due to the explosion and that it has been venting the remaining gas.

There are no reported injuries.

“We have contingency plans in place should this be for a greater time period,” Dyck said when asked about what actions the town might take to assist residents without heat.

“As far as the temperature is concerned, the words ‘polar vortex’ is what they’re saying.”

Niverville Deputy Mayor John Funk said in a statement on the town’s website that depending on the extent of the repairs, service is expected to be lost for minimum of 24 hours to multiple days.

Funk said Manitoba Hydro is asking residents to turn down thermostats and minimize use of electric heaters. He also urged caution when using all types of space heaters, and warned people not to use barbecues or any other unapproved heaters indoors that might produce carbon monoxide.

Manitoba Hydro says on its website that other communities in the area may also experience interruptions to service. It says it doesn’t have an estimate on how long the interruptions will last.

Five homes remain evacuated as a result of the explosion.

TransCanada said in a news release that the fire is steadily decreasing in size and is being closely monitored by its staff and local emergency response crews. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada and the National Energy Board are also investigating.

The company says there is no risk to anyone.

It said it was working with Manitoba Hydro to determine if alternative sources of gas are needed.

Roads leading to the site have also been closed.

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