'Like the town has been cut by a knife': Fears grow for dozens after runaway train explosion in Canada kills at least five

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Five confirmed dead but 'toll will grow' as clean-up operation begins

At least five people were confirmed dead on Sunday, with about 40 still missing, after a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in the small Canadian town of Lac-Mégantic.

Fires sparked by the incident continued to burn on Sunday night, more than 24 hours after the accident in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The explosion devastated Lac-Mégantic’s town centre, levelling buildings and forcing up to 2,000 people in the 6,000-strong community from their homes.

Police discovered two bodies on Sunday morning, after finding three overnight. About 40 people were reported to be missing, although officials warned that that number could change. “Two more people have been recovered – two more bodies – which brings the total to five… There are about 40 people, more or less, who are considered to be missing,” police spokesman Michel Brunet said. “There could be more, there could be less.”

Denis Lauzon, Lac-Mégantic’s fire chief, said the affected area resembled “a war zone” after the 73-wagon train exploded, unleashing furious fireballs and mushroom clouds of thick, black smoke.

Lac-Mégantic is about 160 miles east of Montreal, in Quebec province, and sits close to the border with the US states of Maine and Vermont.

Yves Faucher, who lives in the centre of the town and has been evacuated, described the scene on Saturday morning. “I saw though my windows, it became bright like the sun. I thought it was an explosion,” he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Yvon Rosa, meanwhile, had just left the Musi-Cafe bar, close to the site of the blast. He was with a friend when they saw the train speeding towards them. They escaped on to a boat on the lake and remained on the water until morning. “It was incredible,” he told Reuters. “The smoke, the heat – fire everywhere. There were people running… It was like the apocalypse.”

The train had been stopped uphill of the small lakeside town after its engineer had completed his shift, according to Edward Burkhardt, the chief executive of Rail World, the privately owned parent company of the operator, Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway.

What caused the train to roll, driverless, and eventually derail was not immediately clear. Mr Burkhardt told The Canadian Press he thought the brakes had been “properly applied on this train”.

Fires on three of the five oil tanks had been put out by Sunday morning. About 150 firefighters, including some called up from the US, were at the scene, and officials said two tanks were still on fire and at risk of exploding.

The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, was expected to visit the town last night.

“It was like a movie,” Bernard Theberge, who suffered second-degree burns on his arm as a result of the explosion, told The Canadian Press. “Explosions as if it were scripted – but this was live.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mechanical Design Engineer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: MECHANICAL D...

SQL DBA (2005/2008/2012, projects, storage requirements)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

Copywriter - Corporate clients - Wimbledon

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Copywriter - London As a Copywrite...

Horticulture Lecturer / Tutor / Assessor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: As a result of our successf...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried