There are still many things unknown about the rapidly evolving situation in Lac-Mégantic, devastated Saturday morning by a massive explosion. However, officials have confirmed some details about the fatal blast in the Quebec town and the preceding train derailment. Here's what we know so far:
Fatalities and missing
- While officials have warned they expect the death toll to rise, five deaths were confirmed within the safety perimeter as of late Sunday morning. The bodies have been sent to Montreal for autopsies. Another 40 people are officially listed as missing.
Tankers still burning
- It’s still unclear how many of the train’s 72 cars were involved in the initial blast and fire. However, last night, officials said five tankers were still burning and posed a risk for further explosions. The Lac-Mégantic fire chief said two were still a concern on Sunday morning.
Water supply in Lac-Mégantic
- Quebec Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet told CBC’s Quebec AM that he flew over the Chaudiere River on Sunday, and that an estimated 100,000 litres of oil had spilled into the river. On Sunday night, town officials made an appeal for more potable water after a line was damaged inside the containment area. The town’s mayor said Sunday morning that the pipe was repaired and water has been restored to most areas. A preventative boil water advisory remains in effect because of the disruption to the line. The mayor stressed Sunday that there is no known contamination to the drinking water reserves.
- Soon after the initial fire and explosion — and smaller explosions that followed — 1,000 residents were told to leave their homes. Later in the day on Saturday, 1,000 more people were told to leave over concerns about air quality. The Red Cross set up a temporary shelter at a school and said 150 people stayed there Saturday night. Another 550 registered with the Red Cross. Anyone who needs access to homes within the perimeter set up by officials to get items or feed pets is being told to go to the Mazda dealership on Laval Street.
Train had no engineer
- The president and CEO of Rail World Inc., the parent company of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, said the train was parked uphill of Lac-Mégantic before the incident. The engineer had finished his run and the company believes the brakes had been properly applied. The engineer left the train at 11: 25 p.m. and went to a hotel for the night. The derailment happened less than two hours later.
What we still don’t know
- It is still not clear what caused the train cars to roll downhill and leave the tracks. The company reports that the train was stopped 6.8 kilometres uphill from the town at 11:25 p.m. by the engineer. At some point before 1:15 a.m. ET, the train moved downhill. Railway personnel pulled 13 cars intact from the rear of the train at the scene.“We will be taking a look at the black box. Hopefully we’ll recover that,” Glen Pilon, an investigator with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said Saturday afternoon. “Until that’s happened, we’re going to approach this the way that we do every other investigation and that’s taking a look at everything and not ruling anything out until we find something to focus on.”
The exact number of missing and dead
- Investigators do not yet have access to the full site within the perimeter because of the ongoing risk for further explosions. Representatives from the coroner’s office also said it could be possible that the damage was so significant, remains may not be recovered. The exact number of missing could change, police have cautioned, as people are located and others are reported.
The full extent of the damage
- Fire officials have said that at least 30 buildings have been destroyed in the centre of town where the train cars derailed, including the town’s library and archives. However, the full extent of the damage remains unknown. Police will not confirm that number and say it is part of their investigation. Many residents have not been allowed back to their homes and businesses because of the safety risk. Just after 12 p.m. Sunday, officials said they were shrinking a portion of that perimeter and some people would be allowed to return to their homes. It’s unclear how many people that will affect.
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