More than a hundred wait out propane blast at York

More than a hundred people displaced by yesterday’s massive explosions were shuttled to an elaborate evacuation centre at York University yesterday afternoon, in search of solace from a traumatic time that saw them forced from their homes, wrote the National Post Aug. 11.

Many of the evacuees said they were frustrated by the lack of answers to the questions they had for authorities. Laura Zanesco said her father-in-law had spent several hours in the cold and rain before finally being sent to York.

Earlier, TTC buses marked “Shelter Bus” shuttled the evacuees to York’s Tait McKenzie gymnasium, near Keele Street and Steeles Avenue, which Red Cross and Salvation Army workers had transformed into a makeshift hostel complete with cots, blankets, water and hot meals.

Toronto police kept the site secure, with more than 30 officers on the scene while inside the gymnasium response crews cared for the mostly elderly residents, including several in wheelchairs and one woman who was wearing a breathing tube.

The series of blasts shortly before 4am yesterday morning led to the non-mandatory evacuation. Reports throughout the day said an estimated 12,000 people were displaced, but it was unclear as of last night whether anywhere near that number in fact left their homes. Residents with nowhere to go were first taken to the Downsview military base but were later sent to York.

The gym was able to house 1,200 people if need be but never saw more than about 120 visitors at one time. Richard Fisher, York’s chief marketing officer, said with most people electing to stay with friends or family, the evacuation never reached a “full-scale” level.

“I think the initial rumours were many thousands, but we’ve only seen 100 or so at this point,” Fisher said. “This really is a place for people with nowhere else to go.”

  • Boom after boom after boom, the successive blasts rattled homes, blowing doors off their hinges, shattering windows and leaving residents huddled in fear as giant balls of fire burst in the night sky and propane tanks were ejected several kilometres away, wrote The Globe and Mail Aug. 11.

Most evacuees found shelter with friends or relatives. Nearly 150 residents who were left homeless were taken to York University’s Tait McKenzie Centre.

  • Something had shaken Brian Bittles awake, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 11. Lying in the dark, next to his wife Lorraine, Bittles listened carefully. It was a shrill hissing sound, he remembers, not unlike air escaping from a tire. It was coming from the propane plant across the street.

They thought they’d better buy some clothes. Bittles’s grey Reebok shirt was covered in dried blood. And none of them were wearing any shoes. They drove to a Wal-Mart and bought sweat pants, T-shirts and flip-flops. Bittles asked a police officer if he knew where they should go. “I think everyone’s going to York University,” Lorraine recalls the officer saying.

The Bittles were among the first to arrive at the Tait McKenzie sports centre, around 10am. The ambulance buses were on the way, a York spokesperson reported. There’d be food and water inside.

By about 12:30pm, the Bittles were back at the Tait McKenzie Centre. Three TTC buses serving as makeshift ambulance shuttles had already been by and hundreds of people were being processed. Friends and families of evacuees were waiting outside. The girls and Lorraine went inside for some food; the university gym was well stocked with coffee, juice, fruit, pizza and other necessities.

  • A veteran firefighter died trying to extinguish a massive fire at a propane depot in north Toronto early Sunday, a blaze that closed major highways and forced thousands to flee their homes, wrote CBC News online Aug. 11.

Census figures for the area suggest that more than 12,000 people live in the affected zone. Many of the evacuees were being housed at York University, where they were offered beds set up in the school gymnasium. The Red Cross and Salvation Army were supplying food, water and goods to evacuees, while the Humane Society was providing food and water to pets.

  • For as long as he’s been a police officer, Sgt. Cam Woolley has never seen anything cripple the city like yesterday’s north-end explosion, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 11.

TTC shut down the Downsview, Wilson and Yorkdale subway stations, forcing northbound lines to turn around at Lawrence. Although specially routed buses shuttled evacuees from the perimeter to a makeshift shelter at York University, regular routes within the fire’s area were halted for most of the day.

  • Thousands of residents were displaced from their homes yesterday after a propane storage facility in North York erupted in a series of massive explosions that were felt as far as seven kilometres away, wrote the National Post Aug. 11. Ray Maco said the blasts terrified him and his young children. “Fear. It was the greatest fear I’ve ever had in my life. I thought it was a terrorist in Canada,” he said from a makeshift shelter at York University. “[But] when I saw the fireball I knew what it was.”
  • Joanne Crockett woke up around 3am yesterday to a “big blast” that “brightened up the whole room,” knocked the curtain rods off her windows and left her without power, wrote The Toronto Sun Aug. 11. “You hear the cops standing outside, saying ‘You gotta get out of there, you gotta move’,” she said outside York University’s Tait McKenzie Centre, where her dogs were busy mauling a tennis ball.
  • The biggest concern for two Canadian Forces members yesterday was whether the evacuation order that prevented thousands of residents from returning to their North York homes would stay in force overnight, wrote The Toronto Sun Aug. 11. “Other than that, it’s pretty cool,” said Steven DesJardins, who was towing along Pasha, a 2 1/2-month-old chocolate Labrador with a friend, Danielle Dumas, outside the evacuation site at York University.
  • Thousands of residents have been evacuated from the area. The evacuees are being taken to York University’s athletic complex, wrote the Digital Journal online Aug. 10. The Salvation Army and Red Cross are on hand helping those affected with food and supplies. Pets are being tended by the Toronto Humane Society.
  • Vivid orange fireballs lit up the early morning sky and drove thousands of terrified people from their homes Sunday as a thunderous propane explosion scorched a Toronto neighbourhood but somehow left only a handful of residents with minor injuries, wrote The Daily News (Kamloops) Aug. 11. Taken first to a military base and then to York University, traumatized residents – some who fled in their pyjamas – were given the all-clear to return home Sunday night.
  • Thousands of people jolted awake yesterday by “epic” pre-dawn blasts spent the day wondering what would come next, wrote The Winnipeg Sun Aug. 11. More than 12,000 people are estimated to live in the evacuation area but only a small fraction required shelter at either York University or inside a Canadian Forces building at Downsview.
  • The first thing Mary Cellucci did after watching scenes of the explosion on television was call her 83-year-old mother, who lives near Wilson Avenue and Keele Street, wrote The Toronto Sun Aug. 11. “My sister and I found out about it, and we were calling them saying ‘This is going on and you got to get out of it’," she said yesterday, after spending a frantic hour outside York University’s Tait McKenzie Centre.
  • Thousands of Toronto residents are back home after massive propane explosions forced them to evacuate, wrote The Canadian Press – Broadcast Wire Aug. 11. The evacuees were offered food, water, and shelter throughout the day, first at an armed forces base and then at York University.
  • Thousands of evacuees from a north Toronto neighbourhood were expected to begin returning to their homes Sunday night after fleeing an enormous blast early Sunday at a propane plant in the middle of their neighbourhood, wrote Canwest News Service Aug. 11.

Elaine Smyer, the manager of emergency planning for the City of Toronto, said as many as 12,000 residents could be affected by the evacuation. A shelter was set up at York University. “They can stay with us until we can determine whether they can return home or if they need to find other places of accommodation.”

  • National and local television and radio stations also mentioned the use of York’s Tait McKenzie Centre in reports about the explosion.

Grad student’s research shows bumblebees are declining

The honeybees seem to be bucking the trend and thriving for the moment, at least in my garden. So I have stopped watching them at work and turned my attention to the native bees, wrote a columnist for The Washington Post Aug. 7.

I called Sheila Colla, a bumblebee expert in York University’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, and described it to her. She said it was either the common eastern bumblebee or the two-spotted bumblebee. A quick Internet search confirmed it as the former. “And they’re absolutely everywhere,” she said. For now, that is.

Colla is at the forefront of some alarming bumblebee research that shows a decline in the number of rusty-patched bumblebees, which used to be one of the most common bumblebees in fields, farms and gardens from Ontario to Georgia. “It was the third or fourth most common species out of 14,” she said.

In addition, a second formerly ubiquitous species is in rank decline, the yellow-banded bumblebee. “Surveying this summer, we have found [it] in some places, but it seems to have been pushed into boreal forests,” Colla said.

Meanwhile, Colla is studying the effects of a relatively new class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which were introduced in the early 1990s. The pesticides have been linked to the vanishing honeybees. Colla, in lab tests on bumblebees, said that when given doses as low as 12 parts per billion, “they can barely move.” The chemical affects the development of the queen bee’s ovaries, she said.

Hazard control badly needed

Recent crises in global financial markets and their profound social and economic impacts raise fundamental questions as to the efficacy and sustainability of the current construct, wrote York Professor Edward Waitzer in The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business Aug. 11. The glue holding the model together has become unstuck. There’s an urgent need to begin thinking beyond modest regulatory reform to fix this.

In recent years, innovation in capital markets has focused on the ability to isolate, package and resell elements of risk. This has attenuated the focus of market actors on the notion of “responsibility” that we traditionally associate with “ownership.” As the facility of subdividing and reselling risk has increased, the relationship between holders of securities (and the securities themselves) and the underlying activities being financed with the capital so raised has become tenuous.

The Globe noted Waitzer holds the Jarislowsky Dimma Mooney Chair in Corporate Governance at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and the Schulich School of Business, and is a senior partner at Stikeman Elliott LLP.

The Internet has become indispensible to the legal world

The Internet should be the first stop for anyone interested in launching a lawsuit, learning about the law, keeping abreast of a particular case or following legal debates, wrote The Vancouver Sun Aug. 11 . The court registry has its place, but you don’t have to go down to the courthouse any more – most dockets are online and so are judgments from official websites. Osgoode Hall Law School at York University maintains a site devoted to Supreme Court of Canada decisions and issues.

Urban inversion – TO inside out

A recent term would describe what’s happening here in Scarborough, and in parallel along the broad commercial boulevards of Etobicoke, North York and beyond, as “demographic inversion,” wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 10 in a story about changes in development in what used to be Toronto’s suburbs. More simply put, these are the hallmarks of a city turning itself inside out.

Downtown, here as in many other cities, condos climb higher, Victorians get renovated and restored, real estate rockets ever-upward as the moneyed class recolonizes the core. Meanwhile the inner city of old has relocated to the fringes, as vibrantly multi-ethnic as ever.

Rafael Gomez is the director and founder of ThinkTankToronto, a hip iteration of a community group in Scarborough. He grew up there, but left for London in 1999 to do his PhD in economics (he’s also a professor of economics at York’s Faculty of Arts, Glendon campus). He came back in 2004 to a complete surprise. “I just thought, ‘this is fantastic,’” Gomez said. “It was truly and authentically multicultural. And it was alive.”

Successful film alum still wants a screenwriting credit

Who framed Roger Rabbit? , asked the Waterloo Region Record Aug. 9.

Tim Eaton did. Eaton (BFA ’76) also inflicted multiple stab wounds on Goldie Hawn. He caused several tornadoes, too. Oh, and he sank the Titanic. “It’s a living,” he sighs.

That very first film – which, he now recalls, won some sort of student contest and was screened at Ontario Place – did get him thinking about filmmaking as a career. That led to a brief stint studying film at York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

One job led to another, and another and another, and before long Eaton had more film credits to his name than most Hollywood megastars: Willow, The Mummy, Back to the Future 2 and 3, Field of Dreams, Forrest Gump and Beowulf, to name a few.

Yet there’s one elusive credit that Eaton has spent the past 20 years struggling to earn: screenwriter. Eaton and co-writer Marc J. Seifer have penned the script for what they believe is a guaranteed hit – an epic biographical film about the life and career of Nikola Tesla, one of the greatest (and strangest) inventors who ever lived.

But Hollywood seems reluctant to make a film about Tesla. Eaton’s script is one of many Tesla stories floating around Tinseltown, and there are no takers. "We’ve shopped it to hundreds of different actors and producers and directors," Eaton says. "My theory is that there’s still a rock that we haven’t turned over."

After two decades of dead-ends and frustration, Eaton remains determined to get his Tesla movie made. It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy digitally adding explosions and laser blasts and flying DeLoreans to movies – he does – but they’re not his movies.

Analyst-diplomat’s efforts made him a man before his time

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the passing of one of the most incredible, and under-appreciated Canadians in our history, wrote the London Free Press Aug. 9. Although news of his death was carried in major papers across Canada, the United States, and even Great Britain, former Glendon Professor John Wendell Holmes and everything that he stood for has faded from the memories of all but those who were closest to him.

In a country that is forever obsessed with defining itself and its place in the world, the loss of his story is tragic: it is hard to imagine that there has ever been a person more Canadian than John Wendell Holmes.

Study looks at female executives’ needs

For high-achieving women, having a spouse who helps out around the house isn’t a big deal – unless he doesn’t, wrote The Vancouver Sun Aug. 11. That’s among the findings of a new study co-authored by Souha Ezzedeen, a professor in York’s Atkinson School of Administrative Studies, that sheds light on how female executives’ spouses help them rise to the top or hold them back.

The researchers conducted in-depth interviews with married female executives or upper managers and sifted through their comments to find which of their spouses’ actions were seen as most helpful and which were unsupportive.

The most valued behaviour was emotional support like listening to her vent and not making her feel guilty for being away from home, followed by reinforcing her self-esteem with belief in her abilities and respect for what she does.

The study was published in the September issue of the Journal of Family Issues under the title “The Man Behind the Woman” – with Kristen G. Ritchey, government and community affairs manager for Comcast Corporation in Harrisburg, Pa.

Author explores teen issues in book

At seven years old, C.K. Kelly Martin (BA ’92) decided to write her first book series and her entire Grade 2 class had the opportunity to read it, wrote the Oakville Beaver Aug. 9. Today, 32 years later, Martin continues with her writing endeavours. On Sept. 23, her book, I Know It’s Over, published by Random House Inc., will be available at bookstores for the public to read.

While Martin has written six other books, I Know It’s Over is the first one to be published and has already been nominated for the American Library Association (ALA) Quick Picks 2009 list.

The York University film studies graduate admits that this is her favourite age group to write about. “I find it the most interesting. Everybody is trying to find themselves when they are young. And you’re experiencing all these things for the first time, gaining your independence, falling in love, finding out what you want to do for a living,” she explained.

Quotable tycoon

“The most valuable thing an emperor can have is someone to tell you when you have no clothes,” wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 11, quoting Seymour Schulich, Toronto financier, philanthropist and York benefactor.