Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

At Least 5 Killed in Quebec Rail Accident Train Hauling Oil Derails, Igniting Explosions and Fires That Destroy Town's Downtown District

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

At Least 5 Killed in Quebec Rail Accident Train Hauling Oil Derails, Igniting Explosions and Fires That Destroy Town's Downtown District

Article excerpt

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec -- About 40 people were still missing a day after a runaway freight train derailed in Quebec, igniting explosions and fires that destroyed a busy downtown district and killed five people.

Police said a higher death toll was inevitable, and authorities feared the number might soar once they're able to reach the hardest- hit areas. Worries remained over the status of two oil-filled train cars.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper compared the area to a war zone and said about 30 buildings were incinerated. Quebec provincial police Sgt. Benoit Richard said only a small part of the devastated area had been searched Sunday, more than a day since the accident, because firefighters were making sure all fires were out.

All but one of the 73 cars were filled with oil, which was being transported from North Dakota's Bakken oil region to a refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick.

The eruptions sent residents of Lac-Megantic scrambling through the streets under the intense heat of towering fireballs and a red glow that illuminated the night sky. The district is a popular area packed with bars that often bustles on summer weekend nights. Police said the first explosion tore through the town shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday. Fire then spread to several homes.

Two tanker cars were burning Sunday morning, and authorities were still worried about them Sunday evening. Local Fire Chief Denis Lauzon said firefighters were staying 500 feet from the tankers, which were being doused with water and foam to keep them from overheating.

"This is really terrible. Our community is grieving, and it is taking its toll on us," Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche said.

The multiple blasts came over a span of several hours in the town of 6,000, which is about 155 miles east of Montreal and about 10 miles west of the Maine border. It is a picturesque lakeside town in Quebec's Eastern Townships. …

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