Three of the businesses evacuated Monday because of a butane leak at Irving Oil's Saint John East Terminal on Bayside Drive have been cleared for re-entry, but the evacuation order for other businesses and about 65 area residents remains in place, officials announced Wednesday afternoon.
Bayside Drive, a major east Saint John artery, also remains closed to all traffic between the Courtenay Bay Causeway and Red Head Road, causing major traffic snarls on Loch Lomond Road and Champlain Drive.
Crews are working around the clock to clear the broken four-inch pipeline that runs from the terminal to the Irving Oil refinery, clean up the site and complete repairs, the Saint John Emergency Measures Organization said in a statement.
"The safe re-entry into local commercial properties and homes remains a priority," the statement said.
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"As the cleanup progresses and safety inspections are undertaken, residents and tenants will be notified of their ability to safely enter their homes and businesses.
"An exact timeline for re-entry is not available for all properties at this time."
But Bill Lawlor, the provincial director for the Canadian Red Cross, did confirm to CBC News that area residents will spend a third night at a hotel at Irving Oil's expense.
Buildings that have been tested and deemed safe for re-entry are:
- Industrial Security at 430 Bayside Dr.
- CFM at 380 Bayside Dr.
- 2 First St. E., the old East Saint John School.
Bayside Drive will remain closed until further notice.
"SJEMO is aware of the significant impact this has caused to traffic in the area and thank motorists for their continued patience," the statement said.
Animals are SPCA's '1st priority'
The Saint John SPCA Animal Rescue shelter, which is located at 295 Bayside Dr., right by the damaged butane pipeline, is one of the businesses still under the evacuation order.
Although staff have faced criticism on social media for abandoning the animals, manager Joan Richardson said the accusations are untrue.
"We absolutely did not," she said.
Staff are being escorted in by emergency crews twice a day to feed the 62 animals when conditions are considered safe, said Richardson.
"Now because we're only coming in at morning and night, the dogs especially are having to stay in longer in their kennels," she said. "Getting out to go to the bathroom has been a challenge."
But staff had no say in the matter, she said.
"This is not the way we wanted things to unfold, but [police] told us [Monday] for safety reasons we had to leave immediately," said Richardson.
"A police officer knocked on the door and said, 'You need to go now.' He gave us five minutes to evacuate, and the animals could not come."
The shelter can't accept any new animals until the evacuation order is lifted and is relying on veterinarians to hold animals until it can reopen, said Richardson.
Spay and neuter services are temporarily suspended, along with animal patrol services, she said.
Once staff are given the all-clear to return to the shelter, Richardson said they will need a full day "to get back in action" and reopen to the public.