Two bodies have been found at the site of an explosion in an industrial area of Sherbrooke, Que.

Const. René Dubreuil, spokesman for the Sherbrooke police, said the bodies were found Thursday afternoon when emergency workers were combing through the debris.

Hours later, another person was found amid the debris, said Dubreuil.

"She was hiding in the debris and she was hiding because she was scared," said Dubreuil. "The person was found by firefighters when they made a search of the building to find people who were missing."

A total of 19 people were brought to the emergency room at the Sherbrooke University Hospital Centre (CHUS). Of those 19 people, four were transferred to the burn unit at Montreal's Hôtel-Dieu hospital and one remains in intensive care, according to Sylvie Vallières, spokeswoman for the CHUS.

Two of the people transferred were airlifted by helicopter.

Typically, burn victims who are transferred to the Hôtel-Dieu hospital have received burns to more than 30 per cent of their body along with burns to the face and respiratory tracts.

"We have quickly tried to identify all the patients we received so we could communicate with families," said Céline Gervais, director of nursing at the hospital. "We opened up places to hold families in this hard time."


A Code Orange was issued at the hospital and all on-duty doctors were called to assist with the injured.

The explosion happened at about 1:30 p.m. ET at Neptune Technologies et Bioressources Inc., located in the industrial area on Pépin Street.

The company makes health products from krill oil, which contains omega-3 fatty acids.

At a brief news conference this evening, Neptune chief operating officer Michel Chartrand said the company is providing the appropriate support to its staff.

Chartrand said the company will continue to investigate the cause of the explosion with emergency services.

"All we're preoccupied with right now is our employees' well-being," said Chartrand. "Our next steps will be focused on them."

Fire followed explosion

The blast sparked a fire at the site and thick black smoke could be seen for kilometres.

Authorities say they were flooded with over a hundred calls within minutes of the explosion from people who heard the blast.

Firefighters arrived quickly and buildings surrounding the site were evacuated.

By 3:45 p.m., fire officials said the fire had been brought under control, but that they were still in emergency mode.

A fire department spokesman said that all 65 employees had been accounted for.

Three people were initially reported missing but then located.

Police set up a large perimeter around the site and asked people to stay away while they kept searching the debris because of the risk of toxic exposure.

Environment Quebec said the toxicity concern stemmed from the plant's 15,000-litre acetone reserve, which was struck by the fire.

Acetone is flammable, and when ingested can cause irritation.

During a news conference Thursday evening, Dr. Marc-André Leclair said the fumes were not toxic and that everyone should be reassured.

Transport Quebec closed Highway 410 in both directions between Highway 10 and de Portland Street to divert traffic from the area.

It's remains unclear what caused the blast.

With files from The Canadian Press