* Unofficial list drawn up by residents show dozens missing
* Runaway train jumped rails, exploded in town
By Richard Valdmanis and Julie Gordon
LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec, July 7 Canadian police on
Sunday raised the death toll from a massive explosion involving
a runaway freight train to three and said they expected to find
more bodies in the wreckage of a small Quebec town.
The train, which had been hauling crude oil from North
Dakota to eastern Canada, derailed and blew up early on Saturday
in Lac-Megantic, a town of 6,000 on the edge of a deep blue lake
and ringed by forests of pine and birch. There was no driver on
It is not clear why the train began rolling down toward the
town, or why the crude oil blew up. The train had five
locomotives and 72 tanker wagons, each carrying 30,000 gallons
(113,000 liters) of crude oil. Four caught fire and exploded.
The blast produced a fireball that mushroomed hundreds of
feet into the air and destroyed dozens of buildings in the
center of the town.
"Three bodies have been found," police spokesman Michel
Brunet told reporters. "People have been reported missing or
disappeared but ... we are not going to issue a figure. We know
there are going to be more deaths."
Police said late on Saturday they had discovered the remains
of one victim.
An unofficial list drawn up by residents and posted on the
Internet showed about 40 people were still unaccounted for. The
gigantic blast, at about 1 a.m. (0500 GMT) on Saturday,
flattened dozens of buildings, including a music bar popular
with young people.
Police have declined to comment on reports the number of
missing could be anywhere from 40 to 80 people.
About 2,000 of the town's inhabitants were evacuated after
A BOOM AND FLAMES
"I was sleeping when it happened," said Rene Bolduc, who
said he lived within a few hundred yards (meters) of the site of
the accident. "There was a boom and the inside of my house
turned red with the color of the flames."
Bolduc said he saw people running as the flames towered
"It felt like the hairs on my arms and face were burning
off," he told Reuters.
Lac-Megantic is in the predominantly French-speaking
province of Quebec, about 160 miles (255 km) east of Montreal
close to the border with Maine and Vermont. The rail line is
owned by Montreal, Maine & Atlantic, which said the engineer had
secured the train for the night and left.
Two wagons were still burning on Sunday. Around 150 firemen,
some from the United States, spent most of Saturday spraying
cold water from the lake on five tanker cars they said still
posed a serious risk of exploding.
Fire officials said on Sunday they had contained the risk
somewhat, and only two tankers were still considered at risk of
White vapor still rose from the town center, which police
have cordoned off. Photos released by the authorities showed
shattered buildings, burning piles of rubble and stumps of
Crude oil shipments by rail in North America are rising
steadily as pipelines fill to capacity and more and more oil is
produced in western regions like Alberta and North Dakota.
There have been a number of high-profile derailments of
trains carrying petroleum products in Canada recently, including
one in Calgary, Alberta, last month when a flood-damaged bridge
sagged toward the still-swollen Bow River. The derailed rail
cars were removed without spilling their cargo.
The disaster will focus attention on the merits of
TransCanada Corp's proposed Keystone XL pipeline from
the oil sands of Alberta to the Texas coast, a project U.S.
President Barack Obama is considering whether to approve.
Proponents of Keystone XL, which environmentalists strongly
oppose on the grounds that extracting crude from the tar sands
generates more greenhouse gas emissions than regular drilling,
say shipping oil by pipeline is safer than using rail cars.
Montreal, Maine & Atlantic owns some 510 miles (820 km) of
track in Maine and Vermont in the United States and in Quebec
and New Brunswick in Canada.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is due to visit the
town later on Sunday.