At least 15 were transported in critical condition, while five were deemed to be unstable.
Emergency services arrived at the hotel at 10:19 am after being alerted to the presence of carbon monoxide in the building’s boiler room by an automatic alarm. According to a Winnipeg Fire Paramedic service update, crews evacuated 52 people and one dog from the property after finding varying levels of carbon monoxide gas inside, with some areas reaching up to 385 parts per million.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, concentrations of carbon monoxide above 150 to 200 parts per million can cause disorientation, unconsciousness and even death. Exposure to lower volumes of the gas can cause headaches, weakness, dizziness, mental confusion and nausea.
The 46 people sent to the hospital—a group which included two children—arrived in varying conditions: At least 15 were transported in critical condition, and five were deemed to be in unstable condition, according to the service update.
Victims were sent to several different hospitals across the city in order to more equally distribute care, and the impacted dog was treated by Winnipeg Animal Services.
Manitoba Hydro, the gas and electric company that services the city of Winnipeg, also arrived at the Super 8 after the alarm, turning off the gas and starting the process of ventilation.
“Today’s incident at a Winnipeg hotel was not a gas leak. It was a carbon monoxide poisoning,” the company tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “CO is produced by the incomplete combustion/ventilation of gas stoves, heating boilers, furnaces, propane barbecues, gas-powered water heaters & clothes dryers. Natural gas has a rotten egg smell (mercaptan) added to it so that it can be detected — carbon monoxide is odorless, which is why you need a CO alarm in your home and business.”
By Wednesday afternoon, a Manitoba Hydro representative announced in a press conference that they had determined the likely cause of the leak: “A vacuum of exhaust within the building which allowed chimney exhaust within the boiler to be pulled back into the building.”
The representative said that carbon monoxide detectors had been in place in the hotel, but it was too early to determine if they were adequately installed. Carbon monoxide detectors have been mandatory in all new buildings in Manitoba since 2011, though there is no law for pre-existing buildings.
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There have been no reported fatalities as of Wednesday afternoon.