A deadly explosion occurred during the early hours of Saturday morning in the town of Lac-Megantic, a lakeside town of 6,000 ringed by forests of pine and birch, in the province of Quebec, about 160 miles east of Montreal and close to the border with Maine and Vermont.  About 2,000 people, approximately a third of the population, were evacuated after the disastrous explosion and resulting fire.

The bodies of up to 40 people missing after a runaway train carrying crude oil slammed into a Quebec town may never be recovered, officials warned late Sunday.  Five others were already confirmed dead in the disaster, which triggered an intense blaze in the small town of Lac-Megantic, which reportedly looks like a war zone.

The train, hauling 72 tanker cars from North Dakota to eastern Canada, rolled seven miles downhill from an overnight parking spot and derailed on a curve at 1 a.m. ET on Saturday.  The subsequent explosion and fireball sent flames hundreds of feet into the air and flattened dozens of buildings, including a popular bar.  Each car carried 30,000 gallons of crude.

Investigators are focusing on how the train’s brakes happened to be released.  Officials will be concentrating their investigative efforts on the hand brakes and air breaks to attempt to determine if this was a mechanical failure or a malicious act.  The train’s data recorder was been recovered from the crash site.  The company that owns the train, the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, issued a statement that a locomotive, left running overnight in order to hold the train in place, had been shut down.  “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,” the company said.

The engineer had left the hand brakes on all the locomotives and the air brake, a high-pressure stop, on the lead engine, which is a standard operational rule.  It is believed that “several hours” after the engineer left, someone shut down the train—he said he didn’t know who it was. “There are some things I would like to know, like who turned off this locomotive,” he said.  It was also reported that in the town of Nantes, where the train had been parked, local firefighters had to put out a fire on the train earlier, on Friday night.  It was not clear if that fire was connected in any way to the derailment, or why the train became unsecured in Nantes.

Residents said they were particularly concerned about people who had been inside the Musi-Cafe bar, a popular night spot located next to the center of the blast.  “There was a big explosion, the heat reached the cafe and then a big wall of fire enveloped the road,” said a patron of the bar, who was sitting on the patio of the restaurant as the train barreled into town.  “There were people inside.  I thought for maybe two seconds that I should go in, but the heat was too strong to get to the door.”

I would hope that this was purely an accident, but early indications point to a deliberate act by a person or persons unknown.  I hope that, if this is the case, someone comes forward. It was reported on Monday morning, that officials at the scene were treating this case as a probable homicide and not an accident.  If this, in fact, is true; I would hate to be that person, who is the responsible party.

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