Air quality warning issued after raging barge fire in Surrey - Canadanewsmedia
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Air quality warning issued after raging barge fire in Surrey

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VANCOUVER — A massive fire on a barge in the Fraser River in Surrey filled the air over Metro Vancouver with acrid grey smoke Friday, prompting health officials to issue an air quality warning.

The barge, east of the Pattullo Bridge, belongs to Schnitzer Metal, a recycling company, and was loaded with old cars and appliances ready for shipping.

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Surrey assistant fire chief Ben Dirksen said they received a call shortly after 4:30 a.m. about a large fire burning deep in a pile of scrap metal.

As of 11 a.m., the fire was still smouldering despite attempts to put it out from land and from the water using one of Vancouver’s fire boats.

Witnesses posted photos on social media showing the fire sending a huge plume of black smoke in the air. Several people said it sounded like cars were exploding.

The smoke is affecting the air quality across Metro Vancouver, with many residents reporting a chemical taste to the air. Fire officials say material from old cars, such as fabric and rubber tires, and other scrap metal are causing the toxic smoke.

Metro Vancouver posted an air quality statement on Twitter, recommending people stay inside and close the windows.

Metro Vancouver issued another health advisory later Friday, saying sporadic elevated levels of fine particulate matter were measured at air quality monitoring stations in Metro Vancouver. The advisory says smoke from wildfires in West Vancouver and from California, Oregon, and Washington may be contributing to the poor air quality.

Metro says fires burning in Agassiz and east of Manning Park, as well as the barge fire may also contribute to smoke concentrations.

Dr. Michael Schwandt, a medical health officer with the Fraser Health Authority, said they are monitoring the air quality closely and will need to determine what types of particulate matter are in the air. Inhaling particulate matter can be harmful to anyone, but can be particularly dangerous for those with health problems.

“The exact contents in the air are unknown so we are urging everyone to exercise caution outdoors,” he said.

Schwandt said anyone with a heart or lung condition should limit activity outside while the fire is still burning, and when possible stay indoors.

Anyone who is exercising or working outside should stop if they have difficulty breathing, he added. The smoke is also a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have diabetes, and lung or heart disease.

Fire crews had difficulty fighting the fire from land so Vancouver Fire and Rescue sent one of its three fire boats and four firefighters to aid in the battle. The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority was coordinating the response and working with Surrey Fire, Vancouver Fire and Rescue, and the health authorities.

Dirksen said firefighters are on barge and are attempting to pull the cars apart to get to the centre.

“We have no idea of the cause,” he said, adding that it could take all day to put out the fire.

Dirksen said officials were concerned that the plume of smoke was causing a distraction for drivers on the Pattullo Bridge, and urged drivers to keep their eyes on the road.

— With files from Jennifer Saltman

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PHOTOS: Hurricane force winds, snow, slam Newfoundland

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NEWFOUNDLAND | Heavy snow


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Digital writers
theweathernetwork.com

Thursday, November 15, 2018, 2:52 PM – The strongest storm of the season so far edged into Atlantic Canada earlier this week, strengthening rapidly as it barrelled through the north Atlantic Thursday. Hurricane force winds, snow, and damaging storm surge were expected to batter parts of Newfoundland the the day, with the largest waves on the planet targeting the island.

The storm knocked out power to thousands as winds whipped the region.

“This is just one of many issues our crews have been dealing with,” said Newfoundland Power in a tweet showing powerline damage. “We thank all of our customers who have been impacted during this storm for their patience. We are working as safely and diligently as possible to restore power to our customers.”

Much of Atlantic Canada saw winds upwards of 80 km/h, with most of Newfoundland experiencing wind gusts over 130 km/m, which made for reduced visibility and dangerous driving conditions.

Atlantic Canada will continue to be the focus of the active weather through next week with a couple more systems expected

RELATED: Get the latest updates on the system impacting Atlantic Canada here

SEE IMPACTS OF THE ‘WEATHER BOMB’ IMPACTING NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR, BELOW: 

Do you have a photo or video you’d like to share with us? Be sure to upload it to our website, here.

WATCH BELOW: ROUGH WEATHER IN NEWFOUNDLAND RESULTS IN PLANE CRASH ON WEST COAST OF PROVINCE

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Work accident claims three

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Three people are dead after an apparent workplace accident just south of Edmonton.

Police, firefighters and emergency crews responded Thursday afternoon to a call at Millennium Cryogenic Technologies in Leduc.

Mayor Bob Young confirms three people died.

Young says it isn't clear what happened at the worksite in the Leduc Business Park.

He says the situation is contained and there is no risk to the public.

RCMP and Alberta Occupational Health & Safety officers are investigating.

"On behalf of Leduc City Council and administration, I want to express our deepest condolences to the co-workers and families affected by this tragic incident,” Young said in a statement.

Premier Rachel Notley said her heart breaks for the workers and their families.

"While we wait for details about how this tragic accident happened, my thoughts are with all those who are mourning this terrible loss," she said in a statement.

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Search and rescue responding to bulk carrier off Newfoundland, no plans to abandon ship

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Rescue officials have come to the aid of a bulk carrier that flooded Thursday afternoon off Newfoundland.

Joint Task Force Atlantic says the Centennial Harmony was roughly 460 kilometres off St. John’s, N.L., in the Grand Banks with when it reported flooding onboard around 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

READ MORE: Rescue mission underway for person who fell overboard off N.S. coast

In a statement Thursday evening, National Defence said the flooding was under control, and there was no intention to abandon ship.

It says the bulk carrier – with 21 crew members – was also having intermittent power issues and required technical assistance.


A Hercules aircraft and the Canadian Coast Guard ship Sir Wilfred Grenfell responded to the incident.

A resupply ship, the Maersk Cutter, was on standby roughly 150 kilometres away to assist if required.

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