Wind tosses container into harbour, closes school

Andrew Robinson
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Heavy winds Thursday tossed a storage container into St. John’s harbour for the second time this month and helped get students dismissed from school early after it damaged a roof.

A Newdock vessel helps workers secure a shipping container against Pier 17 in St. John’s harbour Thursday morning. High winds blew the container into the water from the Oceanex terminal and down nearly the full length of the harbour before it was secured. This was the second time a container was blown into the harbour in less than two weeks. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Environment Canada recorded a peak wind gust of 117 kilometres per hour in St. John’s.

Wind blew the empty container on the Oceanex pier into the water Thursday morning. The container was later tugged across the harbour to Pier 17.

As of late Thursday afternoon, workers were attempting to get the container out of the water with a crane, according to Jeff McGrath, St. John’s Port Authority director of marine operations and security.

It was the second time this month such an incident occurred. On Jan. 15, another empty container was lifted into the harbour from the Oceanex pier by strong winds. It, too, had to be towed back to land.

There were no injuries reported in either incident, and according to McGrath, events like this are not a regular occurrence.

“It’s not something we see very often,” he said. “Oceanex do the best they can to secure the containers with locks and whatnot, and they monitor the wind conditions. If the winds are coming up, they put preventative measures in place to prevent something like this from happening.”

But if such measures are being taken, they have now failed to prevent two large containers from being launched into the harbour. McGrath confirmed the port authority will follow up with Oceanex on the matter.

“We’ve got to do due diligence, and we’ll follow up to make sure that there are measures in place that mitigate any risk. The last thing you want is an injury.”

The Telegram attempted to contact Oceanex executive chairman Capt. Sid Hynes on Thursday, but it did not receive a response.

School damaged

Meanwhile, strong winds also shortened the school day for students at Holy Heart High School after the roof above its theatre sustained damage.

Wind managed to get under the roof membrane, causing it to rise. A spokesman for the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District compared the material to shingles, but noted they are longer than those on the roof of a residential home.

Students were sent home as a precautionary measure, and the spokesman said the school expects to reopen Friday.

Winds were initially too strong for repair work to begin when crews first arrived, as it was deemed unsafe to raise materials onto the roof. But they were later able to start on repairs as the wind gusts eased.

Organizations: Environment Canada, Port Authority, Holy Heart High School

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