Freight Train Derails and Explodes in Lac-Megantic, Quebec
Early Saturday, a locomotive pulling a 72-car freight train full of crude oil from North Dakota was parked for the night 11 km west of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, the engineer checking into a nearby hotel. Sometime shortly after, the unattended train began to roll away, toward Lac-Megantic -- investigators are still looking for the cause. The crude oil cars, rolling downhill, broke free of the locomotives and picked up speed, derailing at a curve in the center of Lac-Megantic, a lakeside town of about 6,000 people. Six massive explosions followed, sending up huge fireballs and setting dozens of buildings ablaze. Thousands were evacuated, and so far, five deaths have been confirmed. Authorities worry the toll will climb much higher, as more than 40 residents are still listed as missing.
Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013. A large swath of Lac-Megantic was destroyed after a train carrying crude oil derailed, sparking several explosions and forcing the evacuation of up to 2,000 people. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)
Firefighters douse blazes after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013, sparking explosions that engulfed about 30 buildings in fire. (François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images) #
Firefighters douse blazes in Lac-Megantic, on July 6, 2013. (François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images) #
Residents watch the burning buildings and freight train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013.(François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images) #
A firefighter walks past burning train cars in Lac-Megantic, on July 6, 2013. (Reuters/Mathieu Belanger) #
Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in Lac-Megantic, on July 6, 2013.(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson) #
Destruction in Lac-Megantic cuts from the railyard to the waterfront, following a derailment and fire on July 6, 2013.(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson) #
Residents watch rising smoke after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac Megantic, on July 6, 2013.(François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images) #
Smoke rises from burning railway cars in Lac-Megantic, on July 6, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson) #
Railway cars and buildings burn in Lac-Megantic, after a derailment on July 6, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson) #
Burnt buildings, after a train explosion in Lac-Megantic, on July 6, 2013. (Reuters/Mathieu Belanger) #
Firefighters work at the scene in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 7, 2013. Around 150 firefighters rushed to the scene following the derailment. (Reuters/Christinne Muschi) #
Burnrf buildings, near the wreckage of a train derailment in Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013. (Reuters/Christinne Muschi) #
A concerned resident waits near an aid station set up after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013.(François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images) #
A firefighter at the scene of the train derailment in Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013. (Reuters/Christinne Muschi) #
Relief operations continue in Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013, one day after a train derailment and subsequent explosion and fire.(François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images) #
Firefighters continue to pour water on the wreckage of a freight train loaded with oil that derailed July 6 in Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013.(François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images) #
A woman comforts her friend while they sit on the grass at the Polyvalente Montignac, a school sheltering people who were forced to leave their houses after the explosion, in Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013. (Reuters/Mathieu Belanger) #
A view of the burned core of Lac-Megantic from a lookout point above the town, on July 7, 2013. (Reuters/Christinne Muschi) #
A burned vehicle sits near the wreckage of a train car and a melted traffic light, after a train derailment and fire in Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013. (Reuters/Christinne Muschi) #
Melted siding on a home near the scene of the train derailment and fire, in Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013. (Reuters/Christinne Muschi) #
A firefighter works at the site of the train explosion in Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013. (Reuters/Paul Chiasson/Pool) #
Denis Lauzon, Fire Chief of the Lac-Megantic fire department, briefs reporters on July 7, 2013, as his crews continue to work on fires burning after a freight train loaded with oil derailed, on July 6. (François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images) #
A layer of crude oil lies on the surface of La Chaudiere River as it flows from the town of Lac-Megantic, on July 7, 2013. An unknown volume of crude oil spilled from the train wreck, flowing into the river. (Reuters/Christinne Muschi) #
People attend Mass to pray for the victims of Saturday's train derailment and subsequent explosion and fire, at a church in the village of Sainte-Cecile-de-Whitton, a few kilometers from Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 7, 2013.(François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images)
Dramatic scenes as tanker train carrying crude oil derails and bursts into flames in Alabama
A train carrying 90 cars full of crude oil derailed early Friday morning in western Alaba,a, causing three of the cars to explode and emergency officials still don't know what caused the accident.
A dozen cars derailed in the accident four miles outside of Aliceville, Alabama. The derailment caused three to explode and the fire then spread - damaging nine cars. No one on board the train or near the crash site was injured.
An undetermined amount of oil spilled into nearby water, but officials said there were no signs of a spreading slick or any threat to drinking water. Aerial photographs showed what appeared to be oil in muddy water around the wreckage.
Explosion: A train derailment early Friday morning in Aliceville, Alabama resulted in the explosion of three oil tankers, which spread to damage nine cars total and leak oil into a nearby slough
Investigation: Emergency officials still aren't sure what caused the train to derail in western Alabama. They are waiting for the fire to burn out to start their investigation
Slow: Emergency officials say that the train was moving at a slow pace when it derailed and will be looking into the role a trestle might have played in the accident
Yasamie August, a spokeswoman for Alabama Emergency Management Agency, said only one family was evacuated as a precaution but was allowed to return home soon after.
Sheriff David Abston said the train derailed shortly after midnight near a trestle that crosses water. Flames turned the night sky orange, he said.
'It was a bright fire. It was visible from a long way,' Abston said.
Two students were hunting in the woods around the train tracks when the derailment happened. The two men headed for the crash to see if anyone needed help and found the train's two conductors who they helped drive away from the scene before the explosions happened.
Survivors: The train was carrying more than 90 tankers and a dozen derailed. Above, a picture of the front of the train. The train's two conductors survived the explosion. No injuries were reported
Oil spill: Officials aren't sure how much oil leaked into the surrounding slough, but said that a beaver dam has kept it from spreading
Witnesses: Two students were hunting wild hogs in the surrounding woods when the explosion happened and said it looked like the sun rising, and felt like an earthquake
'I saw this glowing light through the trees, I thought, it looked like the sun was coming up,' one of the students told ABC 33/40.
The force of the explosion was so strong, it shook the earth.'Really, it was like an earthquake, it felt like an earthquake,' the student added.
Firefighters let the blaze burn out since the damage was contained to a rural area. A daytime photo released by the state emergency agency showed five tank cars standing upright on a rail bed with dark smoke visible in the background.
Pile-up: When the fire burns out and the investigation is completed, the undamaged trains will continue on their journey to Florida. The train originated in North Dakota
'It was scary, especially (with) two boys in the house, two little kids,' witness Heather Garner told WBMA-TV. 'And I was sitting outside when one tank blew. And it looked like fire was just coming straight toward the house.'
After the fire burns out (which may take a few days) federal and railway officials will begin investigating what caused the derailment
The accident happened in a wetlands area near a creek and the Tombigbee River. Regional emergency coordinator Don Hartley said it appeared some oil had entered the water but flames prevented a close investigation.
'Fortunately a beaver dam has caused the water to stand still,' he said. 'Any product in water wouldn’t go anywhere.'
Conductors: The trains two conductors were rescued by the two students and driven away from the crash site
Evacuation: Only one family was evacuated as a precaution but were soon allowed to return to their home
Scott Hughes, a spokesman with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, said an initial test found no contamination to drinking water.
Hartley said the short-line train, operated by the Alabama Gulf and Coast Railway, was headed to Florida from North Dakota at the time of the accident, which occurred near a trestle that appeared badly damaged after the accident. The train was moving at a slow pace when the derailment happened.
'One thing the investigation will look at is whether the trestle caused the accident of the accident damaged the trestle,' he said.
Aliceville, with about 2,400 residents, is located about 100 miles southwest of Birmingham, near the Mississippi line.
One dead and sixty missing as runaway train carrying hundreds of tons of oil derails and explodes in fireball in Canadian town center
The center of a Quebec town has been wiped out, according to the mayor, after a runaway freight train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in a fireball at 1am on Saturday.
One person was killed and about 30 buildings were destroyed as the unmanned train exploded. About 60 people are believed to be missing, but the force of the fire has slowed rescue efforts.
Parts of the town were evacuated in the early hours as fireballs shot several metres in the air, flames spread to nearby homes and thick acrid smoke filled the air in Lac-Megantic, which is close to the Maine border and about 250km from Montreal.
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Fireball: A cloud of fire is blasted into the sky above Lac Megantic after a freight train exploded
Explosive: Balls of fire and thick smoke fill the sky above Lac Megantic after a train carrying crude oil derailed
The name of the person killed in the blaze, caused by a runaway Montreal Maine & Atlantic train, has not yet been named.
The train's conductor, who was in a hotel at the town at the time of the crash, is being questioned by police, according to CTV News.
He had parked the train in Nantes, about 12km away, as he waited for someone to take over his shift, when it somehow 'got released', the railway company's vice-president Joseph McGonigle said.
'We're not sure what happened, but the engineer did everything by the book. He had parked the train and was waiting for his relief,' he added.
The train's engine was found about 1km from where the explosions took place, creating what authorities have described as 'a war zone'.
About 30 shops and homes in the town center, including the library and local weekly newspaper's office, were destroyed by the fire, which is being dealt with by firefighters from Quebec and Maine.
'Words cannot tell the damage that had been done,' Sergeant Gregory Gomez del Prado, of Quebec Police, said. 'Many, many buildings have been damaged. It’s a catastrophe for the town of course, but also for the whole province.'
Scorched: Burnt out cars and rubble can be seen as the railway cars continue to burn
Extensive: The damage caused by the runaway train extends over a couple of blocks in the town center
Wiped out: Piles of brick are all that remain of several buildings close to where the rail cars exploded
Witnesses said the blast flattened an apartment building and part of a bar, which had a terrace packed with people at the time of the fire, according to CBC.
Yvon Rosa had just left the bar when he saw the runaway train.
'I have never seen a train traveling that quickly into the center of Lac-Megantic,' he said. 'I saw the wagons come off the tracks ... everything exploded. In just one minute the center of the town was covered in fire.'
The ferocity of the blaze has made authorities fear for the safety of many of the lakeside town's 6,000 residents. About 120 firefighters are still trying to contain the fire in the town center.
'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,' the town's mayor, Colette Roy-Laroche, said.
'We're told some people are missing but they may just be out of town or on vacation,' Lieutenant Michel Brunet, of Quebec police, said.
A Facebook page has been set up to help friends and family check on their loved ones, according to the Toronto Star.
Devastation: Residents said the explosion looked the the end of the world, as thick smoke and flames filled the sky
Rescue: As the town was evacuated residents watched in horror as the fire spread
Destruction: About 30 buildings in the center of the town, near the border with Maine, have burnt down
About 250 residents have taken shelter in a Red Cross center set up in the town's high school, and more are expected to arrive there later today.
'Many parents are worried because they haven't been able to communicate with a member of their family or an acquaintance,' Ms Roy-Laroche said.
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper has sent his sympathy to the stricken town.
'Thoughts & prayers are with those impacted in Lac Megantic. Horrible news,' he said on Twitter.
Flames could be seen from several miles away as the fire spread to several homes after the 73-car Montreal Maine & Atlantic train, which was heading towards Maine, derailed.
Zeph Kee, who lives about half an hour from Lac-Megantic, told CBC: 'It was total mayhem ... people not finding their kids.'
Resident Anne-Julie Hallee, who saw the explosion, said: 'It was like the end of the world.'
Another resident, Claude Bedard, said: 'It's terrible. We've never seen anything like it. The Metro store, Dollarama, everything that was there is gone.'
Still burning: Flames and smoke pour from one of the wagons hours after the derailment
Locator: The Montreal Maine & Atlantic train derailed about 250km from Montreal
Doused: Water is sprayed on to a burning rail car close to the railway track
Rubble: The remains of a building flattened in the blast can be seen through the smoke
Only 1,000 litres of oil on board the train has been recovered, and firefighters said that all of the 73 cars were on fire, according to a press conference held in the town on Saturday afternoon.
A lot of the oil has leaked into a lake and the Chaudiere River, and plumes of thick smoke could be seen from about 10km away, nearly 10 hours after the blast.
A 1km section of the town has been cordoned off and boats have been banned from coming close on the river, after flames were allegedly seen in two aqueducts.
'We have a mobile laboratory here to monitor the quality of the air,' Environment Quebec spokesman Christian Blanchette said.
'Firefighters are working hard to extinguish that fire, but it’s burning hard because of the crude oil,' Gergeant Gomez del Prado said,adding that it would take a while for the fire to be contained.
'We also have a spill on the lake and the river that is concerning us. We have advised the local municipalities downstream to be careful if they take their water from the Chaudiere River.'
Firefighters have set up a perimeter around the town as they try to tackle the blaze, which was caused when four of the cars that were pressurized blew up.
Derailment: Smoke is still filling the streets around where the 73-car freight train derailed
Pollution: Environmental workers are monitoring the plumes of smoke, as well as contamination of a river
'There are still wagons which we think are pressurized. We're not sure because we can't get close, so we're working on the assumption that all the cars were pressurized and could explode. That's why progress is slow and tough,' local fire chief Denis Lauzon said.
The cause of the derailment is not yet known. The railway company's Mr McGonigle, said the middle section of the train had derailed, the Montreal Gazette said.
Investigators are headed to the town to begin gathering information and statements from witnesses.