Five people dead, up to 40 still missing in Canadian train disaster

July 7, 2013 at 1:26 PM

LAC-MEGNATIC, Quebec, July 7 (UPI) -- Quebec authorities said Sunday the death toll in a fiery train wreck in a small Canadian resort town has risen to five and 40 people were considered missing.

At least four blocks in Lac-Megantic were leveled early Saturday when a runaway train hauling crude oil derailed and exploded.

The search continued Sunday, and police were resigned to the likelihood they would find additional victims. "We do expect that we will have other people who will be found deceased unfortunately," Lt. Guy Lapointe of the Quebec provincial police said Saturday night.

Explosions tore through the crowded center of the lakefront village, scattering weekend visitors and residents alike and forcing the evacuation of around 2,000 people from their homes.

About 400 evacuees were staying at a Red Cross shelter at the town's high school, The (Montreal) Gazette reported.

Police estimate as many as 40 people were considered missing.

Meanwhile, police were patrolling evacuated neighborhoods to make sure no looting or vandalization took place, the newspaper said.

Investigators were still trying to determine how the 72-car train became separated from its locomotive and went rolling through Lac-Megantic. The train had been parked outside of town by its conductor, who apparently left without noticing anything amiss.

"Sometime after (the conductor left the train), the train got loose," Joseph McGonigle, vice-president of marketing for The Montreal, Maine-and-Atlantic Railway, told the Montreal Gazette. "It traveled under its own inertia to the center of the town."

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