The Guardian provides more recent information about the situation in Lac-Mégantic:
Fires continued burning for more than 24 hours after a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed in eastern Quebec, igniting explosions and fires that destroyed a town’s centre and killed at least one person. Police said they expected the death toll to rise.
The explosions sent residents of Lac-Mégantic scrambling through the streets under the intense heat of towering fireballs and a red glow that illuminated the night sky, witnesses said. Flames and billowing black smoke could still be seen long after the 73-car train had derailed, and a fire chief likened the charred scene to a war zone.
Up to 2,000 people were forced from their homes in the lakeside town of 6,000 people, which is about 155 miles east of Montreal and about 10 miles west of the Maine border.
Quebec provincial police lieutenant Michel Brunet confirmed that one person had died. He refused to say how many others might be dead, but said authorities had been told “many” people have been reported missing.
Lt Guy Lapointe, a spokesman with Quebec provincial police, said: “I don’t want to get into numbers, what I will say is we do expect we’ll have other people who will be found deceased unfortunately. “People are calling in reported love ones missing, some people are reported two, three times missing by different members of the family,” he said.
[. . .]
The cause of the accident was believed to be a runaway train, the railway’s operator said.
The president and CEO of Rail World Inc, the parent company of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, said the train had been parked uphill of Lac-Mégantic.
“If brakes aren’t properly applied on a train, it’s going to run away,” said Edward Burkhardt. “But we think the brakes were properly applied on this train.”
Burkhardt, who was mystified by the disaster, said the train was parked because the engineer had finished his run.
“We’ve had a very good safety record for these 10 years,” he said of the decade-old railroad. “Well, I think we’ve blown it here.”
Update: Of course, to a politician, it’s never too soon to turn headlines into props for your favourite causes:
[NDP leader Thomas] Mulcair, speaking in Montreal on Saturday, said the accident was “another case where government is cutting in the wrong area.”
“We are seeing more and more petroleum products being transported by rail, and there are attendant dangers involved in that. And at the same time, the Conservative government is cutting transport safety in Canada, cutting back the budgets in that area,” said Mulcair, who pointed to decreased transportation checks on petroleum at a time when production was increasing.
“When we have a discussion about these things in the coming months or years let’s remember this day. We are watching a magnificent little village being burned to the ground by toxic products that were being transported through it,” Mulcair said.
I really did think better of Mr. Mulcair. This is quite disappointing.
Update, the second: The front page of Le Journal de Montréal, courtesy of Newseum.