60 reported missing as Canada oil train explosion forces town evacuation

MONTREAL: Explosions rocked a small town in Quebec and several people were still missing after an oil-laden cargo train derailed in the middle of town early,60 reported missing as Canada oil train explosion forces town evacuation.

The accident created a spectacular fireball, witnesses said, and the flames were still not under control hours later in Lac Megantic, around 250 kilometers (155 miles) east of Montreal. Witnesses reported as many as six large explosions during the night.

Some 120 firefighters were battling the blaze, including some who came across the border from the US state of Maine, just 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of the town.

Several buildings in the center of town were engulfed in flames.

Authorities evacuated everyone within a kilometer of the scene — as many as 6,000 residents, according to the Quebec emergency agency — after the train went off the rails around 1:20 am local time (0520 GMT).

Rescue workers at a morning press conference said they were not immediately able to determine a human toll from the accident.

The provincial police of Quebec said they were unable to determine if the missing people had been in town overnight, but several witnesses said they were unable to reach relatives who lived near the accident site.

Meanwhile, the crude oil, which was headed for the US coast, gushed through streets like a river, and the extent of the environmental damage was not immediately clear.

“I can say absolutely nothing about victims…we’ve been told about people who are not answering their phones, but you have to understand that there are people who are out of town and on holiday,” he said.

Around 20 fire engines have been battling the inferno, which they fear could spread as many tanker cars are still at risk of exploding. Firetrucks have been dispatched from northern Maine, US, to assist.

“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,” said local fire chief Denis Lauzon.

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