A freight train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in the centre of the Canadian town of Lac-Mégantic this weekend. Dozens of people are missing following a massive inferno. Canada’s Prime Minister compared the disaster area with a war zone.

By Frank Kuin in Lac-Mégantic

The death toll has risen to five in the disaster in the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic after an oil transport train with more than 70 tanker cars derailed early Saturday morning and exploded near the town centre.

About 40 people have been missing since the accident, and roughly 30 buildings were destroyed, including a crowded bar, by several explosions and an inferno.

Quebec police expect the death toll to rise. Authorities have asked relatives of the missing to provide DNA material. But due to the intensity of the explosions and the heat, they say it is possible that some of the victims may never be found.

The fire in the area was brought under control yesterday afternoon. About 2,200 people have been evacuated from the disaster zone. After a tour of the stricken area yesterday, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper likened it to a war zone.

“This is an enormous area, 30 buildings just completely destroyed, for all intents and purposes incinerated,” Harper said during a visit to Lac-Mégantic, a village of 6,000 inhabitants in the province of Quebec, near the Canadian border with the U.S. state of Maine.

The cause of the disaster is still unclear. The train had been parked a few kilometers away for a shift change. Fire broke out in the locomotive. The local fire department showed up after the train conductor had checked himself into a hotel. What happened after that remains unclear.

Transportation of crude oil by rail has been rising sharply in North America, due to increased production of shale oil in North Dakota, and a lack of pipeline capacity.

This post is also available in: Dutch

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One Response to Train carrying crude oil wipes out a Quebec town

  1. […] fire in L’Isle-Verte is the second major disaster in Quebec in seven months. Last July, a train carrying crude oil derailed in the town of Lac-Mégantic. In the explosions and an inferno that followed, 47 people were killed and 30 buildings were […]

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