Petrochemical train explodes in Quebec’s Lac-Megantic

News just reported on a train explosion near Quebec. Hope everyone is safe!

Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac MeganticEyewitnesses reported that the town centre was crowded at the time of the blast

A driverless train carrying light crude oil has exploded in a Canadian town, forcing the evacuation of 1,000 people.

The blast sent a fireball and black smoke into the air, destroying dozens of buildings in Lac-Megantic, some 155 miles (250 km) east of Montreal.

The train’s 77 fuel cars reportedly uncoupled from its parked engine and derailed early on Saturday; 120 fire fighters are still fighting the blaze.

Some 60 people are missing, but no casualties have yet been confirmed.

Eyewitnesses reported that the town centre was crowded at the time of the blast, and that “chaos” ensued.

Explosion fears

The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic train had five locomotive engines and 77 cars filled with light crude oil, and was parked outside Lac-Megantic during an overnight driver shift-change, a company spokesman told Canada’s La Presse newspaper.

The cars filled with fuel somehow became uncoupled, causing them to roll downhill into the town and derail, said the spokesman, Joe McGonigle.

Sgt Gregory Gomez Del Prado: “We do fear that there are going to be fatalities”

“It seems that the brakes were tight on locomotives,” Mr McGonigle told La Presse. “We found the locomotives higher up, half a mile (800m) away.”

Some of the cars exploded, creating a massive fireball and setting fire to nearby homes and businesses.

The fire was still raging more than 12 hours after the incident: A one-kilometre exclusion zone has been set up amid fears of more pressurised containers exploding.

Quebec police spokesman Sergeant Gregory Gomez del Prado told the BBC: “We do fear that there will be fatalities and from now we’re trying to locate the people that are still missing.”

‘Everything gone’

“When you see the centre of your town almost destroyed, you’ll understand that we’re asking ourselves how we are going to get through this event,” an emotional Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche told a televised news briefing.

Resident Claude Bedard described the scene of the explosions as “dreadful”.

Map

“We’ve never seen anything like it,” he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

“The Metro store, Dollarama, everything that was there is gone.”

Firefighters from across the border in the US are helping tackle the blaze.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted: “Thoughts & prayers are with those impacted in Lac Megantic. Horrible news.”

Some of the train’s cargo spilled into the nearby Chaudiere river, said Environment Quebec spokesman Christian Blanchette, adding that communities downstream of Lac-Megantic had been warned to take care if using river water.

Smoke rises from railway cars carrying crude oil that derailed in Lac Megantic, Quebec, Canada, 6 July 2013Firefighters set up a perimeter around the blaze as worried residents looked on

A mobile laboratory had been set up to monitor the quality of the air, he added.

The train was carrying the crude oil from the Bakken Field in North Dakota. Montreal, Maine & Atlantic owns more than 500 miles of track serving Maine, Vermont, Quebec and New Brunswick.

A lakeside town that is home to some 6,000 people, Lac-Megantic is close to the border with Vermont and just 130 miles north of Maine’s capital, Augusta.

BBC News – Petrochemical train explodes in Quebec’s Lac-Megantic.

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