At least one house reduced to rubble, as many as nine others severely damaged.

SEBASTIAN BRON, The London Free Press
Explosion-rocked Woodman Avenue, site of Wednesday night’s natural gas blast and fires in london, remained choked by fire trucks hours later Thursday morning, with about 20 firefighters still working the area.

A Kitchener woman, 23, hit with a raft of charges, including four counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm.

The fallout of Wednesday night’s natural gas explosion and fires in London’s Old East Village came into sharper focus early Thursday as city officials updated the toll taken by the dramatics that sent a massive fireball into the sky and forced the evacuation of 100 homes in the area.

Not just six emergency workers were hurt, but also a civilian, officials revealed at a news conference Thursday morning.

Police also arrested a woman, Daniella Leis of Kitchener, and have since charged her with five drunk driving-related offences.

The charges came hours after at least one witness reported a vehicle going the wrong way on Queens Avenue that smashed into a house at 450 Woodman Ave. Wednesday about 10:30 p.m., triggering the fiery mayhem that followed about 11 p.m.

At the city’s emergency command centre in Byron, London fire chief Lori Hamer said one house was destroyed and seven to nine others severely damaged.

Leis is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 4.

The unidentified civilian’s injuries are believed to be minor, but London’s emergency services chiefs, joined by Mayor Ed Holder at the news conference, couldn’t confirm whether the injured person had been released from hospital.

Even as emergency crews tended to the fallout zone Thursday morning, there was a sense things could have been far worse. Many of the homes in the area had already been evacuated after the vehicle struck the house on Woodman Avenue, a precaution emergency responders took before the night sky was lit up by the major explosion that sent debris flying and apparently triggered other fires.

“Could it have been worse? Absolutely,” Holder said Thursday of the fallout.

“Because of the great efforts of our first responders, I think that helped avoid other potential for injury.”

Several roads in the city’s Old East Village neighbourhood remain closed to traffic as police and firefighters investigate:

  • Dundas between Quebec and Egerton streets
  • Woodman Avenue between Queens and Lorne Avenue
  • Woodman Avenue at Lorne Avenue
  • Lorne Avenue between Woodman and Charlotte
  • Quebec Street at Lorne Avenue
  • Ontario Street at Queens Avenue
  • Lyle Street at York Street

The explosion occurred after the vehicle crashed into the house near the intersection of Queens and Woodman avenues, just east of Quebec Street.

As emergency responders investigated, a gas line is believed to have exploded.

No one was in the home at the time of the crash.

“The fires are under control but the scene is still not safe,” Hamer said, noting 20 firefighters remained at the scene Thursday morning.

About 50 firefighters – 16 crews – had worked the scene hours earlier.

Investigators from the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office are expected on scene this morning.

Where fire crews go from here is unclear.

“At this time, I can’t comment on next steps until the scene is safe to get in and start our investigation,” Hamer said.

Four firefighters were sent to hospital. One remained there in serious but stable condition Thursday morning, Hamer said.

Two police officers were also sent to hospital with minor injuries but have since been released.

The city opened a reception centre for neighbourhood evacuees at Carling Heights Optimist Community Centre on Elizabeth Street. About 30 people were taken there or made their own way to the centre, city officials said. All have since been moved to hotels.

Video of the Intial blast last night (East London) from r/londonontario

Source: The London Free Press