At about 1:15 a.m. (EST) on July 6, an eastbound Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Inc. (MMA) train with five locomotives and 72 carloads of crude oil derailed at the Rue Frontenac grade crossing in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, causing several tank cars to explode and set fires to numerous buildings in the downtown area.
The derailment and its aftermath caused five fatalities and numerous injuries to people in the town's core, which essentially was leveled, according to a CNBC-Montreal report. In addition, about 40 people have been reported missing by immediate family members and about 2,000 residents were forced to evacuate their homes after the accident, the report stated.
Early reports indicated that the train was stopped and tied down by the locomotive engineer at 11:25 p.m. (EST) on July 5 at a station about 6.8 miles west of Lac-Mégantic for a crew change, MMA officials said in a prepared statement. Subsequently, the unmanned train moved downhill into the town, where the derailment occurred, they said.
Further details about the derailment will be gathered from the onboard event recorder, MMA officials said, adding that federal and provincial authorities have taken control of the derailment area, preventing MMA personnel from entering and continuing their own investigation.
"One fact that has emerged is the locomotive of the oil train parked at Nantes station was shut down subsequent to the departure of the engineer, who had handled the train from Farnham, which may have resulted in the release of air brakes on the locomotive that was holding the train in place," MMA officials said. "We don't have complete information concerning this incident, but will cooperate with government authorities as they continue their investigation."
About a dozen MMA representatives are on hand in Lac-Mégantic, including President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Grindrod and board member Yves Bourdon, they said. In addition, the railroad has established a command center in a local municipal building.
"MMA people remain in a state of shock over this incident, and are committed to assisting our neighbors in Lac-Mégantic to make a complete recovery as quickly as possible," MMA officials said. "Our thoughts and prayers with those who have suffered injury and lost family members."
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