Dozens Missing After Quebec Rail Disaster

An unattended train carrying crude oil rolled into the town of Lac Megantic, where several railcars derailed and caught fire. Five people are confirmed dead and more than 40 are missing.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is investigating a major rail accident that occurred July 6 in the town of Lac Megantic, Quebec, where several railcars filled with petroleum crude oil derailed and caught fire. Five people are confirmed dead and more than 40 were listed as missing the following day. News reports indicate the train had been idled Saturday evening by an engineer who was going off duty, and another crew was scheduled to arrive to move it; a local resident reported a fire in one of the locomotives, which firefighters extinguished. They apparently shut down the locomotive and may have released its air brakes, according to the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, which operated the train.

An updated July 7 statement posted on the company's website says its personnel were kept out of the derailment area Sunday, which was under the control of provincial and federal authorities, but the company has established a command center in the town's Municipal Building. Robert Grindrod, the rail company's president and CEO, is on the scene, according to the statement.

"MMA staff are getting organized to deal with immediate needs of residents and to establish a process for the filing and handling of claims. MMA intends to do all it can to address the damages incurred," it says. "MMA has been in touch with the Red Cross and local relief agencies to offer its assistance in providing accommodations, food and other necessities, and is willing to deal one-on-one with residents to address their needs. We will advise telephone numbers as soon as we can.

"While the governmental investigation of the accident's cause has largely prevented MMA from completing its own investigation, one fact that has emerged is the locomotive of the oil train parked at Nantes station was shut down subsequent to the departure of the engineer who had handled the train from Farnham, which may have resulted in the release of air brakes on the locomotive that was holding the train in place. As mentioned above, we don't have complete information concerning this incident, but will cooperate with government authorities as they continue their investigation."

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