At least one person is dead and up to 80 others missing in a train wreck in Canada’s Quebec province over the weekend.
The train was carrying crude oil in the lakeside town of Lac-Megantic when it jumped the rail and exploded in the center of town.
Dozens of buildings were destroyed as late Friday night partygoers were stunned by the fireball that flew into the sky from at least four of the train’s more than 70 cars.
At least one bar and a number of stores were destroyed as well. Both Canadian and U.S. firefighters fought the blaze for hours.
Up to 2,000 residents – a third of the town – were forced to evacuate their homes.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the tragedy “shocking and truly devastating,” adding that his “thoughts and prayers” were with the people of Lac-Megantic. Harper also said the Canadian government stood ready to provide assistance as needed.
The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, which operated the train, and which owns more than 800 kilometers of track in Canada’s Quebec and New Brunswick provinces, said the cause of the accident is not yet known. The company also owns track in the northeastern U.S. states of Maine and Vermont.
The conductor parked the train shortly before midnight Friday, according to a report published by Voice of America, and quoted the company as saying it believes the conductor set the brakes properly. But “sometime after, the train got loose” and headed into town “under its own inertia.”