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This article was published 25/1/2014 (2591 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTERBURNE — Police won't be launching a criminal investigation into a pipeline explosion that forced some residents from their homes early Saturday morning.

St-Pierre-Jolys RCMP has determined the explosion wasn't suspicious and that the burning gas was non-toxic. Police have now cleared the scene, according to an RCMP news release issued Saturday night.

Five houses close to the fire were evacuated earlier today by RCMP and St-Pierre-Jolys Fire Department  and those residents have now been allowed to return home. RCMP cruisers blocked roads into town until officials could determine the area was safe, but police now advise drivers in the area to proceed with caution.

Vehicles are seen near a fire burning following an explosion at a natural gas pipeline near Otterburne, Man.

PHOTO BY JORDAN MCRAE

Vehicles are seen near a fire burning following an explosion at a natural gas pipeline near Otterburne, Man.

When Eveline Wiebe was jolted awake early Saturday morning by a natural gas explosion and giant fireball down the highway, she wondered if the apocalypse was upon her.

"Wow, is the end of the world or something?" she said from her farmhouse near Otterburne, located about 30 minutes south of Winnipeg.

The mother of four young children quickly roused her husband, Feterly, and while they were taking in the spectacle from their kitchen window, the power went out.

"I was half-asleep but I was in shock. When my husband looked out the window, he was in shock, too," she said, noting her kids -- Debby, 7, Anndy, 6, Tommy, 4, Larry 2 -- slept through the whole ordeal.

RCMP released this photo of the pipeline explosion and fire near Otterburne, Man., early Saturday morning.

RCMP HANDOUT

RCMP released this photo of the pipeline explosion and fire near Otterburne, Man., early Saturday morning.

They tried calling 911 but got a busy signal and when they rang the police, nobody answered.

They wondered whether they should prepare to evacuate but once police cruisers were spotted on the highway, they decided to stay put until they got a knock on the door. They didn’t.

While his wife grabbed her camera and started snapping a few pictures, Feterly Wiebe quickly ran out to his barn to start his generator so he could keep his 9,000 chickens warm.

"If the barn goes cold, we would have had mortality with the birds," he said.

Eveline Wiebe looks out her living room window with her son Larry, two years old, where she could see flames in the middle of the night after natural gas explosion near their home in Otterburne.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Eveline Wiebe looks out her living room window with her son Larry, two years old, where she could see flames in the middle of the night after natural gas explosion near their home in Otterburne.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

RMS affected, and response

From Manitoba Hydro:

At approximately 1:00 a.m. on January 25 an explosion and fire occurred on a TransCanada Pipeline between Otterburne and Hwy 59. As a result of the explosion, natural gas supply may be affected in the RMs of Hanover, Ritchot and De Salaberry, including:

  • New Bothwell
  • Niverville
  • Otterburne
  • Kleefeld
  • St-Pierre-Jolys
  • Grunthal
  • St. Malo
  • Dufrost
  • Ste. Agathe

TransCanada PipeLine is still assessing the damage and cannot provide an estimated restoration time. Please prepare for an extended outage.

Eveline Wiebe, who lives a few kilometres across Hwy. 59 from where the explosion took place, took this photo as it happened.

EVELINE WEIBE / FOR THE WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Eveline Wiebe, who lives a few kilometres across Hwy. 59 from where the explosion took place, took this photo as it happened.

We will post updated information on this page, as well as through Facebook (open new window) and Twitter (open new window), as it become available.

Use only approved space heaters and where possible conserve use of electricity. What to do during a natural gas disruption.

If you smell natural gas or have a natural gas emergency.

For electric and natural gas emergencies call:

  • 204-480-5900, in Winnipeg;
  • 1-888-624-9376 (1-888-MBHYDRO), outside Winnipeg.