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'Into the air': One victim of Calgary house explosion likely in hospital for 6 months

First responders attend the scene of a house explosion in Calgary, Alta., Monday, March 27, 2023. A member of the South Sudanese community says the 10 victims of Monday's home explosion were blown into the air before falling into the fiery basement below. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY — A member of Calgary's South Sudanese community says 10 victims of a home explosion were blown into the air before falling into a fiery basement below.

The Monday blast also damaged several other homes and sent part of the roof of the house that blew up into a yard across the street. 

The injured were all adults and six had life-threatening injuries.

Neighbours rushed to help as many of the injured struggled to climb out of the basement to safety.

Deng Deng Tiordit, chairman of the Twic Community Association of Canada, told The Canadian Press that he has spoken to some of the victims, their families and medical officials.

"The doctor told me one man will be there for a minimum of six months ... he's the one who has a lot of burns and is sedated because he has a lot of pain. He will take longer than anyone," Tiordit said.

"The rest, they are thinking about three or four weeks."

Although the fire department hasn't released a cause of the explosion, it has said it could have been natural gas.

Tiordit said one of the victims was visiting from Brooks, Alta., because his son was in hospital awaiting surgery. Now the father is also in hospital.

"He has a broken back and a broken rib and a broken shoulder because he was up on the main floor. When the explosion happened, it threw him up in the air and he fell into the basement," Tiordit said.

"The explosion happened in the basement and the people on the main floor — it threw them into the air. That's why one of them was hanging out the window and then he fell down again."

Aleer Deng, a relative and a friend to many of the victims, said three are in critical condition and the others are stable.He said they are all expected to survive.

"The doctors are doing their best to try and treat them."

The South Sudanese community has started a GoFundMe page and hopes to raise $50,000 to help the victims. It had fundraised $3,500 as of Thursday afternoon.

Gar Gar, a community advocate who set up the fundraising campaign, said community members are also hosting a clothing donation drive on Saturday at the Forest Lawn Community Association. Most of the victims lost everything in the blast and have no clothes, he said.

"Any time one of (the victims) or two get discharged, we are hoping to have some funds where we can help them get back to their feet. But the reality is the other ones who are still in critical condition — to see how we can help them with different expenses," said Gar Gar.

"They're probably not going to go back to work right away, so we are hoping to help them with those expenses."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2023.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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