A major portion of the biggest port in Canada had to be shut down on Wednesday following a chemical fire that broke out amid numerous shipping containers that had been piled up in a yard east of Vancouver's downtown core.
Local residents were forced to take shelter inside their homes due to the toxic smoke, while workers at Port Metro Vancouver and in the surrounding area had to cover their faces with scarves and towels as they streamed right out of their respective offices.
By the early evening, firefighters had managed to contain the fire and residents were allowed to leave their homes, however, people received warning to stay away from the vicinity of the port.
"The smoke is lessening, but we strongly advise people to stay away from the area of the fire," the City of Vancouver commented via its official Twitter account.
With the current scenario being that the fire was still burning, it remained unclear when operations would return to their normal activity at the Port and the surrounding businesses.
Video: CBC News
The blaze was met with an emergency response due to the fact that the burning shipping container contained trichloroisocyanuric acid, which is a hazardous organic compound that can easily irritate and cause damage to one’s eye and skin. There were no reports regarding any kind of injuries.
Port Metro Vancouver initiated an evacuation procedure of its Centerm container terminal, which is operated by DP World Vancouver, shut down all port operations on the south side of the Burrard Inlet, including a Canadian Pacific rail line and also cut off truck access to several facilities of the port.
Having canceled all trains to the suburbs east of the city as well as having certain buses detoured in order to avoid the area of the toxic fire, rush hour commuters had quite a hard time finding alternative routes.
Meanwhile, Police urged nearby residents to remain in their homes and keep all windows closed. The neighborhoods that were affected included parts of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, where a large portion of Vancouver’s homeless people reside.
At a certain point, local health authority officials warned people to use a wet towel to cover their mouths and noses when outside, and also urged anyone experiencing difficulty breathing to immediately seek medical attention.
The fire department reported that 21 firefighters in total were appointed to the area of the fire. The Port Authority was first notified about the accident at approximately 19:40 GMT. The cause behind the fire could not be determined at the moment.
The Centerm terminal is one of a total of four container terminals in Port Metro Vancouver.