Victims of Calgary house explosion expected to survive, community seeking donations

Community members who spoke with the victims said the home's hot water tank stopped working days before the explosion.   (Colleen Underwood/CBC - image credit)
Community members who spoke with the victims said the home's hot water tank stopped working days before the explosion. (Colleen Underwood/CBC - image credit)

One of the 10 victims of a house explosion Monday in the northeast had come to the city from Brooks because his son had been recently airlifted to Calgary for emergency surgery.

He stayed one night at the home in the 700 block of Maryvale Way N.E. The next morning, while he was inside on the ground floor, it exploded, launching him in the air and landing him in the burning basement.

The man suffered broken bones in his back, ribcage and shoulder, said Deng Deng Tiordit, the chairman of the Twic Community Association of Canada, who has met with several of the explosion victims still in hospital.

"These guys, they lost everything," Tiordit said Wednesday outside Foothills Medical Centre.

Tiordit is among those in Calgary's South Sudanese community seeking donations to help the wounded in the Marlborough blast, as the victims face a long road to recovery, both physically and financially.

Colleen Underwood/CBC
Colleen Underwood/CBC

All of the victims, Tiordit said, are members of the South Sudanese community. 

Even though the blast levelled the house, and was felt blocks away at the Forest Heights fire station, all the victims are expected to survive, said Aleer Deng, another member of the South Sudanese community who was at the hospital Wednesday.

Deng said that he and Tiordit spoke with five of the victims who were being treated. He said it's yet unclear when the victims will be released as their injuries range from severe burns to broken bones.

"The three that we haven't seen are sedated. That's just because of a medical procedure. But they told us [the three] were doing good so far," he said.

According to Deng and Tiordit, one of the victims suffered severe burns on his hands because he lifted burning rubble trying to help another victim escape. That victim was one of the two who are now out of hospital, along with the owner of the house.

Many questions still remain about what led up to the explosion.

Tiordit told CBC News the victims he spoke with said that the home's hot water tank stopped working a few days before the explosion. However, it's unclear if that was related to the blast. 

WATCH | Security camera captures video of Marlborough house explosion:

The Calgary Fire Department says it will likely be weeks until a full investigation of the home's appliances is complete. Even so, officials suspect natural gas. Speaking on the Calgary Eyeopener, fire department Chief Steven Dongworth said there was no evidence of a meth lab — often the cause of such explosions.

"We need to examine the equipment from the basement and come up with a scenario with what actually led to [the explosion]," Dongworth said.

In the meantime, Tiordit and others in the South Sudanese community are working to raise funds and supplies for the victims and their families. Tiordit said donations will be collected Saturday at the Forest Lawn Community  Association.

"They don't have any clothes," Tiordit said, speaking of the victims. "Nobody has shoes. Nobody has phone. Nobody has anything."

To anyone thinking of donating clothes, Tiordit noted the shortest of the victims is six feet tall.

Gar Gar, a South Sudanese community advocate, urged Calgarians to help the victims and let them know they are not alone.

"On one side, we're dealing with the tragedies of people still in triage, hoping and praying, seeing how we can help with expenses," he said. "Also, as they get discharged, [we want to] let them know the community is here for them."