A train carrying crude oil derailed overnight in the heart of Lac-Mégantic in Quebec's Eastern Townships, sparking a major fire that has brought firefighters from the town and neighbouring municipalities to the area, and led to the evacuation of 1,000 people from their homes.
Witnesses reported having heard several explosions in the town of about 6,000 located 250 kilometres east of Montreal. The derailment happened around 1 a.m. ET.
It is not yet known if there are any casualties.
A spokesperson for Ontario's Environment Ministery says 73 rail cars filled with crhde oil were involved.
The fire, which can be seen for several kilometres, has spread to a number of homes, although it is not clear how many people have been forced to leave.
"It's dreadful," said Lac-Mégantic resident Claude Bedard. "It's terrible. We've never seen anything like it. The Metro store, Dollarama, everything that was there is gone."
A large, but as yet undetermined amount of fuel, is also reported to have spilled into the Chaudiere River.
The derailed train belongs to Montreal Maine & Atlantic, which owns more than 800 kilometres of track serving Maine, Vermont, Quebec and New Brunswick, according to the company's website.
The cause of the derailment is under investigation.
With files from The Canadian Press