(LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec) — Rescue workers in Quebec, Canada, are hoping to make their way through the smoldering rubble of a devastating train crash and fire to locate more than 40 individuals who are still missing, officials said Monday.
A cargo train parked uphill from the small Quebec town of Lac-Megantic broke free Saturday night, derailed and barreled toward the town. The 73-car train carried up to 1 million gallons of crude oil that ignited when the train derailed, causing a fireball that engulfed the town, officials said Sunday.
At least five people have been confirmed dead although their names have not been released.
Sgt. Benoit Richard said Monday that police hoped to make their way through some of the wreckage to try to locate 40 individuals believed to have been at a local bar, Le Musi-Cafe, on Saturday when the crash happened. Benoit said he expects the death toll to rise once they get to the site of the bar.
Investigators could not reach the bar site because of still-smoldering hot spots, he said.
The derailment caused fires throughout the town that devastated more than 30 buildings and sent up to 2,000 residents fleeing.
“My aunt, her house was burned down. She’s 93. She didn’t have time to get out of there,” schoolteacher Ann-Julie Hallee, a Lac-Megantic resident, told ABC News.
Hallee said she believed some of her students had been at the bar.
“You see those big tank cars, and it’s like, OK, when is it going to happen? You know? When is this catastrophe going to happen?” Hallee said. “And then it happened. It happened. It’s crazy. I’m sorry.”
Investigators have recovered two black boxes from the train since the crash and are working to determine how the crash occurred, they said Monday.
The railway company responsible for the train, Rail World Inc., said that the train’s engineer had put the proper brakes on the train when parking it uphill of Lac-Megantic. The company said that a locomotive shutdown might have released the train’s airbrakes that were supposed to hold it in place overnight, setting it free on the tracks.
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Sheena McKenzie, CNN
Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
Barbara Starr, CNN
Barbie Latza Nadeau, Tim Hume and Vasco Cotovio, CNN