12-metre geyser of crude oil spewed from a broken pipeline

Vancouver, Canada
A 12-metre geyser of crude oil spewed from a broken pipeline in a Burnaby neighbourhood Tuesday, forcing people from their homes, contaminating the area and sending a thick, smelly torrent down storm sewers and into Burrard Inlet.

Cusano Contracting, doing sewer work for the City of Burnaby at Inlet Drive and Ridge Drive, punctured the pipeline with a backhoe around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. The torrent flooded the yards of eight homes, which were ordered evacuated, while another 92 homes were placed on a voluntary evacuation list.

The pipeline is part of Kinder Morgan Canada's TransMountain Pipeline system. It carries oil from a pipeline terminal at the foot of Burnaby Mountain to a tanker-loading facility on Burrard Inlet, said Kinder Morgan spokesman Philippe Reicher.

Aerial view of the area of Inlet Drive and Ridge Drive where a Kinder Morgan crude oil pipeline was ruptured Tuesday afternoon. The geyser of oil coated roads, vehicles and homes.

Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson said pipeline operators shut off the flow of oil minutes after learning of the puncture, so only the oil already in the pipeline was spilled. He couldn't say Tuesday how much oil had been spilled.

Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson said pipeline operators shut off the flow of oil minutes after learning of the puncture, so only the oil already in the pipeline was spilled. He couldn't say Tuesday how much oil had been spilled.

However, witnesses said a fountain of oil sprayed the area for up to half an hour, soaking the contracting crew, a car that was driving down Inlet Drive and two firefighters who arrived at the scene. The oil poured into sanitary and storm sewers, before flowing into Burrard Inlet at the foot of Cliff Avenue.

Anmore resident Jesse Cathcart, who was driving west on Inlet when the rupture occurred, said work crews immediately blocked traffic and cars were turning around in the middle of the street in front of him.

"At first it looked like a water main had burst," Cathcart said. "Oil started running down the road."

Cathcart, an amateur photographer, pulled off to a side street and began to photograph the scene. "They eventually started piling up gravel to divert it, but there was tons and tons of this stuff pouring into the storm drains," he said.

"It was impressive," said Rebecca Lee, 27, who lives a couple of houses away. "It was shooting over the lamp posts and it was so thick. It was covering all the trees, I wanted to be in the middle of it all."

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said the city and contractors had followed all the proper protocols before going ahead with the work. He said he understood the contractors, who worked for the city, were given maps by Kinder Morgan showing they weren't likely to strike a pipeline in the area.

The contractors misjudged the pipeline by about three metres, city spokeswoman Susan Rae said.