SHERBROOKE, QUE. - A harrowing tale of survival is emerging from the blast that killed two workers at a chemical factory in Quebec's Eastern Townships on Thursday.
A woman is in satisfactory condition after an explosion that tore apart the Neptune Technologies and Bioresources factory in Sherbrooke, Que., on Thursday afternoon.
The woman dove under a desk that shielded her as the building collapsed around her. She remained buried for at least six hours under smouldering rubble, with toxic fumes covering the entire area.
"She was hiding in the debris and she was hiding because she was scared," Sherbrooke police spokesman Rene Dubreuil. "The person was found by firefighters when they made a search of the building to find people who were missing."
Two bodies were also found in the rubble and 19 other workers were injured. Two workers remained in hospital Friday with severe burns. One worker suffered burns to 90% of his body and was airlifted to a Montreal burn unit.
"The next few hours are crucial, especially for someone who is severely burned," Isabelle Perreault of the CHUM hospital in Montreal said.
About 15,000 litres of acetone, a common solvent, ignited and gutted the factory.
Firefighters spent much of the night controlling the fire and trying to stop a nitrogen leak.
Environment official Christian Blanchette said large quantities of acetone might still be stored in another part of the plant.
"The challenge is to get the tank and try to assess the quantities that would be inside, as well as the strategy to be deployed to secure the area," he said.
The blast weakened an adjacent building that is at risk of collapse.