On the last work day off of the winter school holidays, it was drizzling outside, and quite gray and cold, so inside seemed to be the warmest and driest place to be. As what usually happens on housework day, neither one of us uses the shower until it’s been cleaned and has a chance to air out. So both of us were in our sleepwear.
Around 10:15, hubby was cleaning our ensuite bathroom (at the back of our house), and I was working on something on my computer in my office / our library, which is the room “in front” of our ensuite, when there was a loud “thud” noise and the house made a slight (but noticeable) shudder.
Initially, I thought my significant other had somehow pulled the large wall cabinet down in our bathroom, so I called out if he was okay. He yelled back asking what that noise was, and he appeared in the hallway, shaking slightly.
At the same time as the noise, a jet was taking off from the nearby airport, and it sounded like it was struggling, so my mind drifted to a jet engine maybe falling off a plane, or a plane crash in the area. Hubby thought it might have been an earthquake, but there had been little shaking associated with the noise.
I went outside in the drizzle, into our backyard. No trees had fallen over. No jet engine was in our back yard. Nothing was out of the ordinary except a garbage truck stopped on the street running parallel to our section, a few houses over. Standing on a raised planter, I looked into our neighbours’ yards. Nothing.
Nothing on the roof, I thought as I walked back inside.
We started talking about it more when we could hear sirens in the distance. At first, it sounded like one siren, but as they drew closer, we could tell there were many sirens. Whatever happened was big to elicit that type of response.
I looked out our front window to see one of the daughters of the people living across the street running around with a cell phone to her ear. Two of our other neighbours were standing across the street, looking concerned. Another woman was on the corner with her dog, under an umbrella, glancing at the sky. I decided to go out.
The neighbour’s daughter approached me, talking quickly about a house explosion a few blocks away from our house. She was still on the phone and conveying information to me, although I’m not sure if it was something she already knew and was relaying it to me and whoever was on the other end of the phone, or if the person on the other end of the phone was the one who was doing the talking, and she was just relaying it to me. A friend of hers appeared in a car, and she ran over to her before I had a chance to ask.
I crossed the street, the woman with the umbrella approaching the other two neighbours at the same time I was. She wondered what the loud thud sound was and come out to look. The neighbours and I were talking with her when one of us pointed at the sky; there was a small mushroom cloud blooming from behind our house. I excused myself to dash back across the street to tell Noel, and as I got to our driveway, a few emergency vehicles sped along the road at the end of our block. Something definitely serious had happened.
The news came quickly that there had been a house explosion about 4 blocks from our house. The blast was heard throughout the city, and the shockwave was felt to varying levels even a suburb or two over. Because we have two two-storey houses behind us, and very large trees on their land, the shockwave was softened and we didn’t feel its full intensity (thankfully).
(A conversation I had later with my dental hygienist revealed, in their two storey house — which is a lot further away from the epicenter than our house — it shook so bad they thought it was a major earthquake. I had heard this also from other people too.)
The sirens and the drizzly day (much like it was on 22 February 2011) made my anxiety spike to moderate levels, but when the helicopters came — both emergency and news helicopters, I am assuming — it made my anxiety heighten significantly. One helicopter was hovering over our house, the thump-thump-thump of the concussion from the blades shaking our house like a small earthquake. It reminded me too much of both the quakes and the 15 March terrorist attack. I nearly had a full-on panic attack, before I reminded myself that the helicopter would eventually move on, and, about ten long minutes later, it did.
The authorities stated the natural gas lines to that part of our suburb were turned off for the time being, but in our section of the suburb, the natural gas was kept on. They technobabbled some explanation on how and why they could shut that section down, but it made me uneasy to know a house on the same reticulated gas system only a few blocks away had blown up.
So the entire day was spent staying safe and dry and warm and worried, but thankful we were safe and emergency services were looking after the case.
Thankfully, no one died (which is a miracle in itself) but one house was completely destroyed and eight others were damaged significantly enough they need major repairs or to be torn down. The house across the street, according to media, was shoved off its foundations by the blast.
Here are some images of the carnage below.