Police confirmed Monday morning that five bodies have been recovered and at least 40 still missing after an unmanned train carrying thousands of barrels of oil crashed into downtown Lac-Mégantic early Saturday, setting off a series of explosions in the small Que. town. More than 100 homes and 30 buildings were destroyed in the fires.
Firefighters said Monday that they're hopeful they'll be able to bring remaining "hot spots" under control. Meanwhile, residents have been allowed into the perimeter to gather personal belongings while investigators comb through the wreckage to search for bodies and attempt to determine the cause of the derailment.
- Read about investigators and firefighters widening their search for the 40 people still missing
- Watch Sophie Cousineau, The Globe’s chief Quebec correspondent, report from the disaster zone in Lac-Mégantic, Que.
- Four unanswered questions that remain about the Lac-Mégantic disaster
- Complete coverage of the Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, train explosion
A broken fuel line may be to blame for the late night fire that occurred shortly before the train barrelled into Lac-Megantic, a spokesman from Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway said Monday.
A fire broke out onboard the locomotive after the engineer secured the brakes and left the train parked at about 11:25 p.m. for a shift change. That fire was extinguished, but not long after, the train began rolling unmanned toward Lac-Mégantic.
Transportation Safety Bureau officials have retrieved the locomotive’s black box, which may contain more information.
Investigators are also looking into the train’s brakes.
- Read the story of the fire on the train.
- Read what’s known so far about how the oil-laden rail cars derailed and destroyed Lac-Mégantic, Que .
- Watch a video explainer of how the Lac-Mégantic accident unfolded .
- Train operator Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway blames air brakes for derailment, explosions and deaths in Quebec .
- Explore a timeline of events in the Lac-Mégantic, Que., train disaster
Victims and survivors
Officials continue to search through the rubble and determine the identities of those dead. Many of those missing appear to have been at Musi-Café the night of the crash, a popular bar on the small town’s main drag near the railway tracks.
- Read about the bar at the epicentre of the Lac-Mégantic catastrophe, where a joyous gathering became the focal point of the tragedy .
Prime Minister Stephen Harper toured Lac-Mégantic’s downtown Sunday afternoon, telling reporters the site looked “like a war zone.” As Mr. Harper vowed that investigators will “determine who is guilty, who is responsible,” opposition leader Thomas Mulcair criticized the owners of the runaway train for not giving “a more active response.”
The explosions have also fuelled the debate over the safety of transporting oil and gas by rail, and whether pipelines may be preferable.
- Read about how energy companies have increasingly turned to rail cars to move their products around North America because projects like TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL line to the U.S. Gulf Coast have been stymied by delays .
- Read Diana Furchtgott-Roth’s argument for why pipelines are safer than trains for transporting oil . She’s a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of Pipelines Are Safest for Transportation of Oil and Gas.