A Quebec train derailment explosion disaster in Lac Megantic, Quebec now has a confirmed death toll of five -- with dozens still missing after a fiery blast early Saturday morning destroyed the town's city center. "A big fire like this with enormous damage and many dead...it's become a crime scene," said Lt. Michel Brunet of the Quebec provincial police department.
At a press conference reported by Bloomberg, he said that about 40 people are missing from the town.
As you can see in the top video, the Canadian town of Lac Megantic went up in flames at around 1 AM Saturday morning -- a time that was more like Friday night to many of the young people in the area's clubs.
How the accident or crime occurred still hasn't been explained. Montreal Maine & Atlantic railroad has said that the engineer who parked the train for the night "did everything by the book." We don't know yet how the driverless train was released, but it quickly went out of control and derailed at Lac Megantic's center -- leading to the horrific explosion that created a fireball of destruction.
An investigator for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said that the current priority is to allow first responders to finish the job of putting out the fire and hunting for survivors or their bodies. Only then can they launch a full investigation into the Quebec train derailment.
Many Canadians fear the worst. Several of the survivors' stories were published in The Globe and Mail, and these eyewitnesses believe that at least one café full of people was destroyed.
"This is a first. Smoking saved my life," said survivor Bernard Theberge who was on the outside patio of Musi-Café when the train exploded:
"[The train] was going way too fast. I saw a wall of fire go up...I saw that there were all those people inside and I knew right away that it would be impossible for them to get out."
A fact sheet about what's currently known about the disaster has been posted by the Montreal Gazette. You can read the whole list there but one bright spot is that the people who escaped the blast so far have reported only minor injuries like smoke inhalation or shock.
2,000 people are evacuated from the area, and two suspected looters have been arrested.
A short while ago on Sunday afternoon Transportation Safety Board officials located the black box.
There was a fire on a fuel line on part of the train which was put out by the fire department at 11:30 PM Friday night. It's unclear right now how this fire relates to the runaway train derailment two hours later.
Officials and others have warned that water downstream may be contaminated with spilled crude oil:
As horrible as the initial reports of the destruction of the center of Lac Megantic were, it is becoming clear that we don't know yet the full extent of the Quebec train derailment explosion disaster.
[aerial view Quebec Police/Surete de Quebec]