The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 6, 2013

Quebec police: More oil train deaths expected

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec — Fires continued burning late Saturday nearly 24 hours after a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed in eastern Quebec, igniting explosions and fires that destroyed a town's center and killed at least one person. Police said they expected the death toll to increase.

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, witnesses said. Flames and billowing black smoke could still be seen long after the 73-car train derailed, and a fire chief likened the charred scene to a war zone.

Up to 2,000 people were forced from their homes in the lakeside town of 6,000 people, which is about 155 miles east of Montreal and about 10 miles west of the Maine border.

Quebec provincial police Lt. Michel Brunet confirmed that one person had died. He refused to say how many others might be dead, but said authorities have been told "many" people have been reported missing.

Lt. Guy Lapointe, a spokesman with Quebec provincial police, said: "I don't want to get into numbers, what I will say is we do expect we'll have other people who will be found deceased unfortunately."

Lapointe refused to give any estimate of people unaccounted for because police were having difficulty getting a fixed number.

"People are calling in reported love ones missing, some people are reported two, three times missing by different members of the family," he said.

The derailment caused several tanker rail cars to explode in the downtown, 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. local time. The fire then spread to several homes.

"When you see the center 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.

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